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2.2m people shielding in England now able to spend time outdoors

Coronavirus: Those who live alone can meet outside with one other person from another household

Mark Moran
01 June 2020
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick


People who have been “shielding” in England can now safely spend time outdoors, the UK Government has advised. Many have not had any face-to-face contact since they were first advised to shield.

Clinically extremely vulnerable people will be able to go 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.

There are around 2.2 million people in England with underlying severe health conditions who must be protected and have been asked to stay at home. These are people of all ages – with specific medical conditions identified by the NHS – who are less able to fight off the virus.

Government support for those shielding from coronavirus is set to continue, including the delivery of food or medicines, phone calls and support from volunteers.

Speaking at the Government’s daily press conference on Sunday 31 May, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick set out a plan to review shielding guidance at regular points in the coming weeks.

“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.

“At?each review point for the social distancing measures, we will also assess whether it is possible for the shielding guidance to be eased further, based on the latest scientific advice. The next review will take place later this month.”

Government support for those being shielded includes:

  • Over 2.25 million boxes of essential food have now been delivered by wholesalers to those at highest risk across England, with more than 300,000 boxes being distributed every week.
  • Up to 200,000 calls a day have been made to the shielded to confirm their support needs, and councils are helping to support them in other ways – including organising regular calls from volunteers to those isolated.
  • In addition to those delivered by volunteers, there have been over 400,000 free medicine deliveries provided by community pharmacies in April to those who have been advised to shield.
  • Support from an army of over 500,000 NHS volunteers have helped support those shielding as well as others with telephone calls to individuals who are at risk of loneliness as a consequence of self-isolation.

Jenrick said that as the Government moves to the next phase of its response to the coronavirus crisis, the latest clinical advice shows a much lower incidence rate in the general population. This means the average chance of catching the virus is now down from 1 in 40 to 1 in 1,000, delivering greater reassurance that it is safe to cautiously reflect this in the guidance for those who have been advised to shield.

Social distancing guidelines for anyone shielding is still paramount, therefore while outside people who are shielding should remain at a 2-metre distance from others. Those being shielded still remain at risk and are advised to only leave the house once a day. They should not go to work or the shops and should avoid crowded places where they cannot social distance.

The updated guidance for those who are shielding will be published on Sunday afternoon in advance of the measures coming into force from Monday.

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