Over 2.2 million people who have been self-isolating in England during the pandemic will no longer need to shield from 1 August.
Extremely vulnerable people who are most at risk from becoming ill from coronavirus will no longer need to shield in England.
Meaning they can return to work, if they can’t work from home, as long as their workplace is COVID secure.
Support packages provided by the local councils and the government will remain until the end of July to help people transition.
From 6 July, they will be able to meet up outdoors while maintaining social distancing rules, in a group, with up to five others and form ‘support bubbles’ with other households.
These changes mean those shielding will no longer be eligible for statutory sick pay – unless they develop coronavirus symptoms, or someone they know develops symptoms, and they are told to self-isolate and cannot work from home.
Free essential food boxes will stop being delivered, but support from NHS volunteers and local councils is still possible.
They will still qualify for priority slots for online shopping and will be offered help with medicine deliveries and getting to medical appointments.
The UK government says the advice can be relaxed because the chances of encountering the virus in the community continue to fall – 1 in 1,700 people are estimated to have the virus now, down from 1 in 500 four weeks ago.
The government says it has worked with clinicians, GPs, charities, the voluntary sector and patient groups on the changes.
“We know how difficult this period has been and the impact shielding has had on many people’s mental health,” says Dr Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer.
“We believe it is the right time to relax some of the advice so people can start to regain a degree of normality once more in their daily lives.”
But she added the advice on shielding could change again “if there are any changes in the rates of infection that could impact on this group”.