Pause on shielding to be considered.
Advice for people who are shielding is to change in the coming month.
Those affected will receive a letter from the Chief Medical Officer Dr Gregor Smith outlining new guidelines and the work to be done to move to pausing shielding from 1 August, as long the evidence is clear that it is safe to do so.
From 10 July those shielding will no longer need to physically distance from people they live with.
From that date, they can meet in groups of up to eight people outdoors from two other households in a single day, as long as strict hand hygiene and physical distancing advice is followed.
Those who have been advised to shield will also be able to travel further than 5 miles from their house, book places to stay, such as self-catering accommodation without shared facilities, and use toilets in other people’s houses if they are meeting them outdoors.
Those currently shielding can also form a ‘extended household group’ with one other household – this means that the shielding group can visit one other household indoors and stay overnight without physical distancing.
The decision on whether infection levels are low enough to allow shielding to be paused from 1 August will be announced before the end of July.
Further advice on going back to work, and whether children who are shielding can return to school, will also be issued before the end of the month.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman (pictured) said:
“The implications of shielding have been enormous for every person affected.
“I know how hard it has been for those shielding, and their loved ones, and I do not want to ask anyone to live under those restrictions longer than they have to.
“But even though these changes will be welcome, I know many will also feel anxious too.
“But we have now reached a point where when restrictions can be carefully eased a bit more because the risk to those shielding from COVID-19 is now lower than before, and we know that easing shielding has benefits for both physical and mental health.
“This will be a month of transition for many, and we urge all those affected to continue to follow safety precautions carefully.”