Restrictions On 2.2 Million People Shielding To Be Eased From July 6
As of Monday 6 July, people who have been shielding to reduce the risk of catching the virus will be able to meet up outside with up to six other people, not necessarily from their own household, whilst observing social distancing.
The government's shielding support package will remain in place until the end of July, after which it will no longer be advised to shield.
The news was announced by Health Secretary Matt Hancock ahead of today's daily coronavirus briefing.
People who have been shielding that live alone, or are single parents of young children, will also be allowed to form a 'support bubble' with another household, provided they follow the rules that are in place for the rest of the population.
As of August 1, the guidance will be further relaxed to allow extremely vulnerable people to stop shielding, however they will still be supported by NHS volunteers and local councils.
Vulnerable people will retain priority for online supermarket delivery slots, and help will still be available to access medication, shopping, and medical appointments.
The advice to maintain social distancing will remain in place, but those who are vulnerable will be able to visit shops and places of worship in accordance with the rest of the wider population.
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Furthermore, they'll be able to return to work if they have been unable to do so from home during the lockdown.
However, whilst the restrictions are to be eased, those who are clinically extremely vulnerable should remain in their homes as much as possible.
Hancock said: "I want to thank all those who have been shielding for so many weeks for their commitment to the shielding programme. I know this has been incredibly tough. Shielding has involved not leaving your house for months, not seeing people you care about, not being able to wander to the park for some fresh air, or even pop to the shops for something you need. This sacrifice has been for a purpose, and I want to thank every single one of you.
"We knew it was a difficult ask, but these measures have been vital in saving lives. Now, with infection rates continuing to fall in our communities, our medical experts have advised that we can now ease some of these measures, while keeping people safe."
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Jenny Harries added: "Shielding was introduced to safeguard those who, at the start of the epidemic in the UK, were thought to be most clinically vulnerable in our communities. We know how difficult this period has been and the impact shielding has had on many people's mental health.
"The prevalence of the virus in the community is now lower and chances of getting infected are reduced, so we believe it is the right time to relax some of the advice so people can start to regain a degree of normality once more in their daily lives.
"People should continue to follow social distancing guidance when outside their homes, as well as frequently washing their hands, to minimise the risk of becoming infected. We will continue to monitor the evidence closely and adjust the advice accordingly if there are any changes in the rates of infection that could impact on this group."
Featured Image Credit: PA