Lockdown easing announced for 2.2m vulnerable ‘shielders’
PUBLISHED: 08:44 31 May 2020 | UPDATED: 11:22 31 May 2020
Lockdown measures for the extremely vulnerable “shielders” are to be eased from Monday.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the 2.2 million people who have been shielded from Covid-19 in England will be able to spend time outside with members of their household, while continuing to follow social distancing guidelines.
Those who live alone can meet outside with one other person from another household.
Reviews of the shielding guidance are expected to be made at regular points in the coming weeks.
Mr Johnson said: “I want to thank everyone who has followed the shielding guidance - it is because of your patience and sacrifice that thousands of lives have been saved.
“I do not underestimate just how difficult it has been for you, staying at home for the last 10 weeks, and I want to pay tribute to your resilience.
“I also want to recognise the hundreds of thousands of extraordinary volunteers who have supported you in shielding.
“Whether through delivering medicines and shopping, or simply by checking in on those isolating, they should feel deeply proud of the part they have played in this collective effort.
“We have been looking at how we can make life easier for our most vulnerable, so today I am happy to confirm that those who are shielding will be able to spend time outside with someone else, observing social distance guidelines.
“I will do what I can, in line with the scientific advice, to continue making life easier for you over the coming weeks and months.”
Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said: “Those shielding from coronavirus have made huge sacrifices over recent months to protect both themselves and the NHS - they deserve our thanks and our support for their efforts.
“Incidence rates of coronavirus are now significantly lower than before these measures were put in place.
“That’s why we are focused on finding the right balance between continuing to protect those at the greatest clinical risk, whilst easing restrictions on their daily lives to make the difficult situation more bearable - particularly enabling the contact with loved ones they and we all seek.
“We will now be providing regular updates to the shielded to guide them through the next phase and, we hope, to better and less restrictive times. In the meantime we will continue to provide the support that the shielded in our communities need.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I want to take this opportunity to thank the NHS, GPs, all those who volunteered, community pharmacists and all those involved in providing much-needed support and guidance for patients required to shield over the past 10 weeks.
“Thanks to the sacrifices made across the country, which have protected the NHS and saved lives, it’s now time to begin lifting restrictions, step by step, and while we must all stay alert, we can now start to resume a sense of normality.”
Steven McIntosh, director of policy at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “This is a step forward for people who are most vulnerable to coronavirus, a group who have felt left behind and forgotten as lockdown eases.
“The Government has listened and it is good news that they are now regularly reviewing guidance for this ‘shielded’ group and will have written to those affected by mid-June.
“For many, it’ll be welcome advice that they can now choose to go outside for exercise or to meet people whilst socially distancing.
“But they still face heavy restrictions like being advised to avoid food shopping, going to pharmacies or their workplaces.
“The Government also hasn’t yet delivered its commitment to provide greater help to this extremely vulnerable group, and Macmillan has heard from people living with cancer that existing ‘shielding’ support isn’t getting through.
“So the Government must now set out how they will guarantee the needs of the most vulnerable and isolated are met.”