Questions have been raised over whether people with diabetes should shield during the coronavirus pandemic.

After the NHS found 26 per cent of patients who have died in hospitals in England after contracting coronavirus had diabetes, the Government was asked whether people with the condition should be added to the list.

Speaking on the matter at the daily Downing Street briefing on Saturday, England’s deputy chief medical officer advised those with type 2 diabetes to think about their diet and exercise to help minimise the risks.​

“We are reviewing all of these different risk factors together to try and give a much more proportional representation of who might be at risk,” Dr Jenny Harries said.

“Type two diabetes, not type one, is one which many of us in the population can perhaps do something about to reduce our risk.

“Again, a great plug from a public health doctor perhaps, to think during this pandemic about diet and exercise and what you can do to help there.”

Dr Harries said that the previous data looked at individual diseases, rather than looking at other risk factors.

A couple wear shields in Baker Street, London (Jeremy Selwyn)

She said: “For example, we know that individuals who are obese will have high rates of type two diabetes, and we also know that they may have some other underlying health conditions.

“It’s really important that we put all these variables together to understand risk.”

Some groups of “clinically extremely vulnerable” people have been instructed to stay in their homes to protect themselves from the virus, initially for a period of 12 weeks.

Some people on the list include those who have had organ transplants, people with specific cancers and those with severe respiratory conditions.

Two men play football on the beach at Minehead as lockdown restrictions are eased (PA)

Published on Thursday, figures from NHS England show that of the 22,332 patients who have died in England’s hospitals since March 31, when pre-existing conditions began to be recorded, some 5,873 (26 per cent) had diabetes.

It was the first time NHS England included a breakdown of deaths by pre-existing conditions in its statistics.

Charity Diabetes UK said the figures show an “urgent” need for more information to ensure the safety of those with diabetes as lockdown measures are eased.

While official advice recognises people with diabetes can be more vulnerable to becoming seriously ill with the virus, those with the disease were not included in a group told to “shield” themselves by staying at home.

Data published by NHS England does not specify whether those who died had type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Protesters gather at anti-lockdown event in Hyde Park

Professor Partha Kar, national speciality adviser for diabetes for NHS England, said: “It is clear that people with diabetes are more at risk of dying from Covid-19 and more detailed analysis is currently under way to understand the link between the two, although initial findings indicate that the threat in people under 40 continues to be very low.

“The NHS has put extra measures in place so that people living with diabetes can manage their condition better during the pandemic, including a range of online services, video consultations with your local clinical team and a dedicated helpline for those who need advice.”