Boris Johnson announces those people ‘shielding’ from coronavirus can leave homes from Monday
The changes come after charities called “clear, consistent” advice amid “mixed and confusing” messages. (PA)
More than two million people “shielding” themselves from coronavirus will be able to leave their homes from Monday, Boris Johnson has announced.
Members of the public who are currently classed as extremely clinically vulnerable will be able to go outside with members of their household or with one person from another household if they live alone from next week.
Confirming the easing of the lockdown measures, the Prime Minister 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.”
He added: “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.”
The Government had previously written to those classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, which includes people who have had an organ transplant, are undergoing cancer treatment, or have a serious heart or severe respiratory condition, saying they may have to keep shielding until the end of June.
The easing of the guidance is expected to be confirmed by Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick on Sunday, with ministers promising to review the advice regularly over the coming weeks.
Mr Jenrick said: “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.”
The adjustment to the guidance for the extremely vulnerable group comes after a coalition of charities urged the Government to set out “clear, consistent” advice amid what they called “mixed and confusing” messages.
Steven McIntosh, director of policy at Macmillan Cancer Support, said the latest changes marked a “step forward for people who are most vulnerable to coronavirus, a group who have felt left behind and forgotten as lockdown eases”.
But he added: “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.”
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents health organisations, said the change appeared to be a “sensible move” that would ease the impact on the physical and mental health of those in the group.
However, he warned: “The daily rate of infection in the community is still uncomfortably high and there is little room for manoeuvre should the rate of infection increase. The approach needs to be tailored and led by local expertise.
"And we should not forget that members of the shielded community are a varied collection and a significant portion of them are in care homes, and will not be able to take advantage of these changes.
"Our members remain concerned about the relaxation of lockdown before Test and Trace is up and running effectively and before we know the public are complying.
"We will need to watch closely and be prepared to respond quickly if the virus reappears."
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe