Britons shielding from coronavirus 'could be allowed out by end of July’

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·Freelance Writer
·4-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Screen grab of Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19). (Photo by PA Video/PA Images via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson delivers a coronavirus media briefing in Downing Street. (Getty)

Vulnerable people shielding from coronavirus may be allowed more freedoms over the coming weeks, the health secretary has indicated.

Matt Hancock said an announcement on shielding will be made "very soon" following reports that it is to be axed at the end of July.

It comes as non-essential shops in England opened for the first time since March this week, following a continued relaxing of lockdown restrictions.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock arrives at 10 Downing Street, in Westminster, London. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images)
Health secretary Matt Hancock suggested rules on shielding people may soon be relaxed. (Getty)

What are the current rules for vulnerable people?

Those who are shielding are currently told they can leave home if they wish, as long as they are able to maintain strict social distancing.

They should only go out with members of their own household, although those who live alone can spend time outdoors with one person from another household, ideally the same person each time.

Millions of people regarded as vulnerable were sent text alerts at the start of lockdown, advising them to remain indoors at all times.

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

What has the health secretary said?

Responding to reports in the Health Service Journal that shielding would be lifted at the end of July, Hancock told BBC Breakfast: "I want to say to your viewers, if you are in the shielded category we will announce very soon what the plans are and we will write to you personally through the NHS so that you can get the direct clinical advice.”

He said those who have been shielding indoors have "sacrificed an awful lot" but added: "We want to do this properly based on the clinical advice.”

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick will publish details soon, Hancock said, and the changes will be "based entirely on the clinical evidence of what it is safe for you to do”.

"But the good news,” he added, “is that, because the virus is coming right under control in this country – only 4,500 new infections a day, far, far lower than at the peak – it means it is much safer to do more things than during the peak and we'll be setting that out in detail.”

Asked on BBC Radio 4's Today programme whether he could confirm that shielding would finish at the end of July, Hancock said the government would "set this out very shortly" and write to those involved.

Senior lady is being shielded in the Covid-19 crisis. Her daughter and granddaughter visit her and speak to her through the window
Vulnerable people were told to stay at home at all times during the peak of coronavirus. (Getty/posed by models)

How have charities reacted?

Age UK said any loosening of the restrictions would be "very good news” as long as any move was “fully justified by the current level of risk”.

Charity director Caroline Abrahams warned that recent changes in guidance caused “confusion and some scepticism”.

She said: "Looking further ahead, if the shielding scheme is to be wound down from the end of July, to be replaced by a more individualised approach, it will be really important to ensure that older people are not left high and dry if support is withdrawn before they can take a full part in our society again.”

Shoppers queue outside department store Selfridges on Oxford Street, London, as non-essential shops in England open their doors to customers for the first time since coronavirus lockdown restrictions were imposed in March. Picture date: Monday June 15, 2020.
Shoppers queue outside department store Selfridges in Oxford Street, London, as non-essential shops in England open their doors to customers for the first time since coronavirus lockdown restrictions were imposed. (PA)

Blood Cancer UK said it would be "extremely concerned" about any plans to end shielding at the end of July.

Chief executive Gemma Peters said: "We are worried that if the government withdraws support for people who are shielding, it will put many people with blood cancer in a position where they feel forced to go back to work but don't feel safe to do so.

"There is a real danger that people will face a choice between financial security and their health, and this would be unacceptable.”

An employee at Top Gift Mobile stall wears a face shield and mask as preventive measure while working. (Photo by Dawn Fletcher-Park / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
An employee at Top Gift Mobile stall wears a face shield and mask as preventive measure while working. (PA)

Nick Moberly, chief executive of the MS Society, said: "For the millions of people who have been shielding – including thousands living with MS – a blanket lifting of the guidance now will leave them feeling even more frightened and anxious.

"We urgently need clarity around the guidance – including clear scientific evidence – so people can return to some sort of normal life safely.”

Coronavirus: what happened today

Click here to sign up to the latest news, advice and information with our daily Catch-up newsletter

Read more about COVID-19

How to get a coronavirus test if you have symptoms

How easing of lockdown rules affects you

In pictures: How UK school classrooms could look in new normal

How public transport could look after lockdown

How our public spaces will change in the future

Help and advice

Read the full list of official FAQs here

10 tips from the NHS to help deal with anxiety

What to do if you think you have symptoms

How to get help if you've been furloughed

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting