Groups at risk of serious illness
Some people may suffer more severe symptoms if they are infected with COVID-19; for example, pneumonia or shortness of breath. The risk of serious illness and death increases gradually with age. For someone with other health issues, the risk increases further. Men are approximately twice as likely as women to become seriously ill and die.
If you are in the age group 70 and over
The older you are, the greater the risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19. The following diseases can further increase the risk:
- Organ transplantation.
- Blood cancers – existing or previous.
- Neurological diseases (e.g. MS, Parkinson’s, myasthenia gravis).
- Obesity (risk increases with increased levels of obesity).
- Diabetes (reduced risk if well controlled).
- Ongoing cancer treatment.
- Chronic pulmonary diseases (including asthma, although this risk is very marginal if well controlled).
- Other immunosuppression caused by disease or treatment.
- Liver disease.
- Impaired kidney function.
- Cardiovascular disease.
If you are under 70 years of age
Those under 70 years of age may also be at increased risk of serious illness if they have:
- any of the above health conditions; or
- any other health condition that increases the risk of serious illness due to respiratory infection.
The following groups are not considered to be at risk of serious illness
Even if they have one of the conditions or illnesses that increase the risk for adults and older people, children are very unlikely to become seriously ill.
Smoking can increase the risk of becoming more seriously ill with COVID-19. Tobacco smoking is already known to increase the risk of serious symptoms in the event of respiratory infection. Learn more under FAQs
How to remain healthy
If you belong to an at-risk group, you can ask your doctor for advice about treatment and what you can do to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19.
If you belong to an at-risk group, we recommend that you:
- maintain physical distance from other people unless you live with them;
- socialise outdoors. The risk of infection is lower when you socialise outdoors, but remember to maintain a safe distance from others;
- avoid places like shops and cafés where many people gather;
- avoid travelling on public transport such as buses, trams and the Metro. Travel by car or means of transport that allow you to book seats;
- ask for help to buy food, collect prescriptions and run other errands that may involve close contact with other people; and
- wash your hands with soap and water regularly and for at least 20 seconds.