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What are the new shielding rules and who do they apply to?

More than two million extremely vulnerable people who have been shielding in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic will finally be able to see loved ones and friends again outdoors as some of the lockdown measures are eased.

Previous advice had seen 2.2m people unable to leave their homes in the wake of the pandemic, due to being classed as ‘extremely clinically vulnerable’ and at a high risk of developing complications if they were to contract Covid-19.

However, new guidance was given on Sunday ahead of other lockdown measures being eased as of today, which allow groups of up to six people to meet outdoors, as well as the re-opening of schools for some years.

But what are the new rules and who do they apply to?

What are the new guidelines for those shielding?

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Under the new guidelines, people who have been shielding are now allowed to spend time outdoors once a day with members of their household.

If they live alone, they can meet with one other person from outside of their household (ideally the same person each time) outdoors, providing social distancing measures are maintained.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick announced the changes at Sunday’s coronavirus briefing, saying: ‘From June 1, those in the shielded category will be advised that they can take initial steps to safely spend time outdoors. This is for England only but we are working with devolved powers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who will issue their own guidance in due time.

‘Those shielding will be able to go out with members of their household. They must still follow social distancing guidelines and make sure they keep a two metre metre distance at all times. We want to assure that as well as reviewing lockdown, we will review the risks for the clinically extremely vulnerable.’

Mr Jenrick advised that the guidelines are purely ‘advisory’ and the next review of shielding measures would take place in the week of June 15, with all those on the shielding list being written to.

Who do the new rules apply to?

The new rules apply to anyone who has been shielding in the wake of the pandemic due to being classed extremely clinically vulnerable and therefore at risk of complications from coronavirus.

Those people were previously advised during lockdown not to leave their homes at all or to attend gatherings, with very limited exceptions such as for medical need.

Those at risk of complications include solid organ transplant recipients, those on immunosuppression drugs, people with severe respiratory conditions such as severe asthma or cystic fibrosis, some cancer patients currently undergoing treatment such as chemotherapy, women who are pregnant and have heart disease, or those who have another immunodeficiency or rare condition.

Other groups considered to be at risk such as the over-70s have been advised to practice strict social distancing but have not been asked to shield.

The sudden easing of measures has caused concern, amid fears that some lockdown measures are being lifted too soon and could result in a second peak of the virus, which would once again place the clinically vulnerable at risk.

But at the briefing this evening, Dr Jenny Harries, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, said: ‘This is very much advice to these individuals for them to take measures to protect their own health.

‘We have a very wide range of responses for that… It is very much for individuals.’

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