Advisory guidance to be eased for 2.2 million clinically extremely vulnerable people across England, as virus infection rates continue to fall, the government has said (Photo: REUTERS).

Health secretary Matt Hancock has announced plans to ease guidance for the 2.2 million people who have been shielding since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Advisory guidance will be eased for 2.2 million clinically extremely vulnerable people across England, as virus infection rates continue to fall, the government has said.A

An NHS Medicine Delivery Service is available from community pharmacies, which ensures the delivery of medicines to shielded patients where family, friends or volunteers cannot collect them.

From July 6, those shielding from coronavirus can gather in groups of up to six people outdoors and form a ‘support bubble’ with another household while maintaining social distancing.

The shielding support package will continue and to remain in place until the end of next month when people will no longer be advised to shield.

The government further said in its statement that from August 1, the guidance will be relaxed, meaning ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ people will no longer be advised to shield, but support will remain available from NHS volunteers and local councils.

People will retain their priority for supermarket delivery slots, and still be able to access help with shopping, medication, phone calls and transport to medical appointments.

While this group of vulnerable people should continue to follow strict social distancing measures, they would be able to participate in more activities such as visiting shops and places of worship.

From August 1, those who need to work and cannot do so from home will be able to return to work as long as their workplace is virus secure, adhering to the guidance available.

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.

“We knew it was a difficult ask, but these measures have been vital in saving lives. 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.”

The rates of the virus are now low enough to allow for the advice to be carefully and safely eased, as on average less than one in 1,700 in the communities are estimated to have the virus, down from one in 500, four weeks ago.

Those identified as clinically extremely vulnerable should continue to remain at home as much as possible, taking particular care to minimise contact with others outside their household and practise good, frequent handwashing.

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