People who were told to shield at the start of the coronavirus outbreak will be able to leave their homes from Monday 6th July as the shielding programme is relaxed.
From this date, people who are currently shielding will be able to spend time outdoors in a group of up to six people, including those outside of their household, while maintaining social distancing.
Those who are shielding and live alone or are single parents with children will also be able to create a ‘support bubble’ with one other household of any size, following the same rules already in place for the wider population.
This comes as the latest scientific evidence shows the chances of encountering the virus in the community continue to decline, and therefore the shielding programme can be relaxed. Government has stated it will continue to support shielders until the end of July to give them time to adjust to these changes.
After July, from Saturday 1st August, clinically extremely vulnerable people will no longer be advised to shield. They will be able to return to work if they can't work from home, as long as their workplace is COVID-19-secure.
Support will remain available from NHS volunteers and local councils. For example, people will retain their priority for supermarket delivery slots, and still be able to access help with shopping, medication, phone calls and transport to medical appointments.
People who are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable should continue to follow strict social distancing measures.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jenny Harries said, '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.'
Following this review of the shielding measures, the government will be writing to all individuals on the Shielded Patient List with updated information on shielding advice and the ongoing support that will be available to them.
Government has stated that, despite the shielding programme being relaxed, those identified as clinically extremely vulnerable should continue to remain at home as much as possible, taking particular care to minimise contact with others outside their household and practise good, frequent handwashing.
It asks employers to ease the transition for their clinically extremely vulnerable employees, ensuring robust measures are put in place for those currently shielding to return to work when they are able to do so.
For anyone concerned about returning to work once the guidance has eased, Government recommends they speak with their employer to understand their specific policies in relation to COVID-19, and agree a plan for returning to work and adjustments that may be needed before they return.