People in England who have been shielding from coronavirus have been advised that they will be able to spend more time outside their homes from July 6.
The government has announced that the 2.2 million people classed as “clinically extremely vulnerable” will be able to meet people outdoors in a group of up to six people, while maintaining social distancing.
Those who are shielding and live alone or a single parents with children will also be able to create “a support bubble” with one other household of any size, following the same rules already in place for the wider population.
From August 1, the guidance will be relaxed further so that those who are most at risk from Covid-19 will no longer be advised to shield.
However, support will remain available to them from NHS volunteers and local councils, and they will retain their priority for supermarket delivery slots, the government said.
Sheilders who need to work and cannot do so from home will also be able to return to work from August 1, as long as their workplace is “COVID secure”.
Explaining the revised guidance, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Jenny Harries said the prevalence of the virus in the community is now lower and chances of getting infected are reduced.
“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,” she added.
“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.”
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt 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.”