BORIS Johnson has paused shielding rules for the clinically and extremely vulnerable in a dramatic development of lockdown guidelines.
So what does this mean for the two million people across the UK who will now be able to go into other households and visit shops?
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What is shielding?
"Shielding" aims to save lives by asking the most vulnerable to avoid all contact, minimising the risk of catching the coronavirus.
Those asked to take part in "shielding" are advised to stay at home at all times.
It is especially important not to have any contact with someone with coronavirus symptoms, including a dry cough or a fever.
You should not go to the shop, the park or to any public places.
From tomorrow, people who have been shielding during the pandemic will be allowed to meet in a group of up to six people outdoors, even from other households, as long as social distancing measures are observed.
They will not need to observe social distancing with other members of their household.
People who were shielding for the past few months will also be able to form a so-called "support bubble" with another household.
When will shielding end?
From 1 August, the government has advised that shielding will be paused.
Vulnerable people will be asked to adopt strict social distancing rather than full shielding measures.
On June 5, the government allowed people who were shielding to leave their home, if they wanted to.
However, they urged them do so with precaution and to maintain strict social distancing.
Despite the announcement that "social support bubbles" would be allowed for single adult households from June 13, those shielding were not included in this.
On June 18, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told BBC Breakfast: "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."
What has changed?
Those who were previously told to follow shielding advice can now return to work as long as the workplace is Covid-secure, but should carry on working from home wherever possible
Clinically extremely vulnerable children should attend education settings in line with the wider guidance on reopening of schools, special schools and other specialist settings.
Those deemed as vulnerable as now able to go outside as much as they like but you should still try to keep overall social interactions low.
Visiting businesses, such as supermarkets, pubs and shops, while keeping 2 metres away from others wherever possible or 1 metre, is also now allowed.
Who has been shielding?
The list of people who were told they needed to be shielding includes:
- solid organ transplant recipients
- people with cancer who are having chemo
- people with lung cancer having radical radiotherapy
- people with blood cancers – leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma – at any stage of treatment
- people having immunotherapy or other antibody treatments for cancer
- people having targeted cancer treatments that affect the immune system – protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors for example
- people who've had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last six months or who are taking immunosuppression drugs
- people with severe respiratory conditions like cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and COPD
- people with rare diseases and inborn errors of the metabolism that increase the risk of infections – SCID or homozygous sickle cell for example
- people on immunosuppression therapies that increase the risk of infection
- women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: "We are working incredibly hard, day and night, to protect the nation’s public health whilst supporting our NHS so it can continue to look after patients in need of care.
"It is vital that we do everything we can to protect ourselves, our families and our friends from being impacted by the virus.
"But for those who are at the highest risk in our society, we have to do even more to ensure they’re kept safe."
How do I practice shielding and how long should I do it for?
Those asked to practice shielding are forbidden from having any face-to-face contact.
This means you cannot have any visitors round to your house.
The only people permitted to visit you are healthcare workers or people who provide you with personal support.
You should avoid anyone with the symptoms of coronavirus, such as a dry cough or fever.
And anyone coming into your home should keep their hands clean by washing with soap and water.
Those who live with you will not need to shield themselves but should still follow social distancing rules and make sure shared spaces are kept disinfected and clean.
Try to use a separate bedroom and bathroom if possible.
Those asked to "shield" should do so for 12 weeks from the day they are told to start the process.
Should this change or be updated, you will be contacted.
For more information on shielding and how to protect the extremely vulnerable from coronavirus, you can visit the government online guidance.
You can also call your doctor to discuss the issue further.
How can I practice 'social distancing' even if I'm not vulnerable?
Social distancing has been described as one of the most effective methods to tackle the outbreak of Covid-19.
Even for those not in the vulnerable group, it is very important to abide by social distancing rules to avoid catching the virus or unknowingly spreading it.
The UK Government have shared several steps you can take to reduce social interaction between people.
This will help reduce the transmission of coronavirus. They are to…
- Avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (Covid-19). These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough
- Avoid non-essential use of public transport when possible
- Work from home, where possible. Your employer should support you to do this.
- Avoid large and small gatherings in public spaces, noting that pubs, restaurants, leisure centres and similar venues are currently shut as infections spread easily in closed spaces where people gather together.
- Avoid gatherings with friends and family. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media.
- Use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services.
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