Shielding advice to be eased from 6 July

The government has today, 23 June, updated its advice for people who are shielding from COVID-19 including many elderly people from Monday 6 July.

As infection rates from the virus fall, guidance for the 2.2 million people, classified as clinically extremely vulnerable across England will be eased.

From Monday 6 July, those shielding from coronavirus can gather in groups of up to 6 people outdoors and form a ‘support bubble’ with another household

The Government shielding support package for the extremely vulnerable, will remain in place until the end of July when people will no longer be advised to shield

Shielding guidance from 6 July

  • you may, if you wish, meet in a group of up to 6 people outdoors, including people from different households, while maintaining strict social distancing
  • you no longer need to observe social distancing with other members of your household
  • in line with the wider guidance for single adult households (either an adult living alone or with dependent children under 18) in the general population, you may from this date, if you wish, also form a ‘support bubble’ with one other household. All those in a support bubble will be able to spend time together inside each other’s homes, including overnight, without needing to socially distance

This comes as the latest scientific evidence shows the chances of encountering the virus in the community continue to decline, but the government is committed to continuing with the unprecedented package of support until the end of July to give those shielding time to adjust to these changes.

Shielding guidance from 1 August

From Saturday 1 August, shielding will be paused, but support will remain available from NHS volunteers and local councils.

From this date, the government is advising you to adopt strict social distancing rather than full shielding measures. Strict social distancing means you may wish to go out to more places and see more people but you should take particular care to minimise contact with others outside your household or support bubble. In practice this means that from 1 August:

  • you can go to work, if you cannot work from home, as long as the business is COVID-safe
  • children who are clinically extremely vulnerable can return to their education settings if they are eligible and in line with their peers. Where possible children should practise frequent hand washing and social distancing
  • you can go outside to buy food, to places of worship and for exercise but you should maintain strict social distancing
  • you should remain cautious as you are still at risk of severe illness if you catch coronavirus, so the advice is to stay at home where possible and, if you do go out, follow strict social distancing

The guidance for the clinically extremely vulnerable group remains advisory. More detailed advice will be updated in this guidance as the changes in advice come into effect on 6 July and 1 August.

Those in receipt of centrally provided food boxes and medicine deliveries will continue to receive this support until the end of July if they want it. Read further information on schools and the workplace for those living in households where people are shielding.

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 clinically extremely vulnerable people should continue to follow strict social distancing measures, they will be able to participate in more activities such as visiting shops and places of worship.

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

Following this review of the shielding measures, the government will be writing to all individuals on the Shielded Patient List with updated information on shielding advice and the ongoing support that will be available to them.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jenny Harries, said:

“Shielding was introduced to safeguard those who, at the start of the epidemic in the UK, were thought to be most clinically vulnerable in our communities. We know how difficult this period has been and the impact shielding has had on many people’s mental health.

The prevalence of the virus in the community is now lower and chances of getting infected are reduced, so 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.

People should continue to follow social distancing guidance when outside their homes, as well as frequently washing their hands, to minimise the risk of becoming infected. We will continue to monitor the evidence closely and adjust the advice accordingly if there are any changes in the rates of infection that could impact on this group.”

The NHS will maintain the Shielded Patient List to ensure that the best advice to those identified as clinically extremely vulnerable is still provided.

Support will continue to be available through the NHS Volunteer Responder Scheme beyond the end of July. NHS Volunteer Responders can support with:

  • collecting shopping, medication (if your friends and family cannot collect them for you) or other essential supplies
  • a regular, friendly phone call which can be provided by different volunteers each time or by someone who is also shielding and will stay in contact for several weeks
  • transport to medical appointments

If someone who is shielding does not need the free government food box anymore, including because they have started to get online supermarket deliveries, they should re-register through the GOV.UK website as no longer needing a food delivery. Alternatively, they can inform their delivery driver at the door that they no longer require these food parcels.

Until 6 July, people who are shielding should continue to follow current Government guidelines.

If you believe you may need to shield, register online or call 0800 028 8327 to get additional support if you need it, and before 17 July so that support can reach you in time.