From Monday, July 6 restrictions will be eased for the 2.2 million people who are currently shielding due to the coronavirus pandemic.
As the infection rate remains below one – 0.7 to 0.9 in the south east -the government has announced those shielding from coronavirus can gather in groups of up to 6 people outdoors and form a ‘support bubble’ with another household.
Shielding requirements will stop by the end of July.
Those who are shielding and live alone or are single parents with children will 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.
From Saturday, August 1, the guidance will be relaxed so clinically extremely vulnerable people will no longer be advised to shield, but support will remain available from NHS volunteers and councils. 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 should continue to follow social distancing measures.
From August 1, those who are shielding but need to work and cannot do so from home will be able to return to work as long as their workplace is COVID secure, adhering to the guidance available.
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.”
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.
The government says that on average around 1 in 1,700 are estimated to have the virus, down from 1 in 500 four weeks ago.