People who have been ‘shielding’ in England due to the Coronavirus pandemic will be able to meet six others from outside their home from 6 July.
Speaking during the Daily Coronavirus Briefing from Downing Street on Monday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that people will no longer be advised to shield from 1 August but that support services offered by NHS volunteers and local authorities will remain in place. People are also set to retain priority access to some supermarket delivery slots and will be able to access help with shopping and transport to medical appointments.
England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jenny Harries advised people who had been shielding to “take some steps now to “start coming back to a normal lifestyle”. Dr Harries said that from 1 August, people will be allowed to see more people outside of their homes and return to work, if they cannot work from home and if their workplace is COVID-secure.
People will continue to be urged to maintain strict social distancing and to wash their hands regularly.
Announcing the next steps for people who have been shielding, Mr 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.”
The government is to write to all individuals on the Shielded Patient List with updated information on shielding advice and support. The measures announced on Monday are initially only for England, not all four nations of the UK, due to matters of health being devolved.
The planned changes to shielding advice come as the average number of daily cases and daily deaths from the COVID-19 Coronavirus in the UK has been falling. The government has said that more restrictive measures may be taken if levels of the virus in the community rise in the future.
Around 1.5 million people were advised to shield themselves back in March as the pandemic was growing in the UK.
Photo Credit: Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street under licence (CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0)