Epidemiologists originally expected the shielding guidance to last for 12 weeks. As the risks from the pandemic eased and more was known about how it is transmitted, they relaxed the guidance so that people shielding are able to go outside.
Millions of people shielding from coronavirus will be advised they can spend more time outside their homes from Monday 6 July, the Health Secretary announced today (Monday 22 June).
Hailing the resilience of those who have been shielding, the Health Secretary confirmed from Monday 6th July they 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.
This comes as the latest scientific evidence shows the chances of encountering the virus in the community continue to decline, but the Government is committed to continuing with the unprecedented package of support until the end of July to give those shielding time to adjust to these changes.
From Saturday 1 August, the guidance will then be relaxed so clinically extremely vulnerable people will no longer be advised to shield, but support will remain available from NHS volunteers and local 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.
Vanessa Hebditch, Director of Policy and Communications at the British Liver Trust, says: “Shielding guidance was brought in to ensure that those most at risk of complications from Covid-19 were kept as safe as possible.
“Epidemiologists (public health professionals who specialise in the spread of disease) originally expected the shielding guidance to last for 12 weeks. As the risks from the pandemic eased and more was known about how it is transmitted, they relaxed the guidance so that people shielding are able to go outside.
“However, despite the progress that has been made in reducing levels of Covid-19 in the community, they believed that the virus still posed a significant threat and extended the shielding period across the UK.
“Epidemiologists have now looked at the expected course of disease rates in the community and believe it will be relatively safe for people to stop shielding at the end July. It is impossible to remove all of the risk, but experts believe that at this point it is appropriate and proportionate to ask people to stop shielding."
“It is important to remember that following the shielding advice significantly impacts quality of life, increases social isolation, and will have its own attendant physical and mental health risks."
Whilst this group of clinically extremely vulnerable people should continue to follow strict social distancing measures, they will be able to participate in more activities such as visiting shops and places of worship.
From 1 August, those who 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.”