LONDON (Reuters) - The more than 2 million people who are “shielding” from COVID-19 in England because clinically they are extremely vulnerable to the virus will be allowed to spend more time outside their homes from July 6, the health department said on Monday.
Bringing the guidance for them into line with rules set for the wider population, the health ministry said they will be able to meet outside in a group of up to six people and, if single or living alone, create a so-called “support bubble” with one other household of any size.
From Aug. 1, the guidance will then be relaxed so clinically extremely vulnerable people will no longer be advised to shield and those who cannot work from home will be able to return to the workplace as long as it is COVID-secure.
Health minister Matt Hancock said he understood that for those told to largely stay at home with no contact with others outside, the weeks since Britain introduced a lockdown to try to contain the novel coronavirus had been “incredibly tough.”
Those shielding were allowed to spend time outdoors once a day from June.
“We knew it was a difficult ask, but these measures have been vital in saving lives,” Hancock said in a statement.
“Now, with infection rates continuing to fall in our communities, our medical experts have advised that we can now ease some of these measures, while keeping people safe.”
Britain has been easing its coronavirus lockdown slowly, trying to balance the public’s health with the needs of an economy which shrank by a quarter over March and April.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will announce the conclusion of a review into whether a 2-metre social distancing rule should be relaxed to help more pubs, bars and restaurants open during the summer months.
Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; editing by Stephen Addison