Get the latest on coronavirus. Sign up to the Daily Brief for news, explainers, how-tos, opinion and more.
Extremely vulnerable people in England who have been ‘shielding’ during the coronavirus lockdown will be able to spend time outside from Monday.
This group – which includes 2.2 million people – will be able to go outside with members of their household, communities secretary Robert Jenrick will confirm on Sunday.
Meanwhile, those who live on their own will be able to meet up with one other person outside.
Social-distancing rules must be maintain during these outings, the government said.
Boris Johnson thanked people who have been shielding, saying the “patience and sacrifice” of this group had saved “thousands of lives”.
The PM said: “I do not underestimate just how difficult it has been for you, staying at home for the last 10 weeks, and I want to pay tribute to your resilience.
“I also want to recognise the hundreds of thousands of extraordinary volunteers who have supported you in shielding.
“Whether through delivering medicines and shopping, or simply by checking in on those isolating, they should feel deeply proud of the part they have played in this collective effort.”
Johnson said he “will do what I can” to make life easier for extremely vulnerable people in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, Jenrick said incidences of Covid-19 were much lower than when lockdown measures were first put in place.
“That’s why we are focused on finding the right balance between continuing to protect those at the greatest clinical risk, whilst easing restrictions on their daily lives to make the difficult situation more bearable – particularly enabling the contact with loved ones they and we all seek,” he said.
Regular updates on lockdown measures will now be given to people in the shielded group, Jenrick added.
But for Steven McIntosh, director of policy at Macmillan Cancer Support, more still needs to be done for the most vulnerable in society.
The news is a step forward for people who are most vulnerable to coronavirus – “a group who have felt left behind and forgotten as lockdown eases”, he said.
“For many, it’ll be welcome advice that they can now choose to go outside for exercise or to meet people whilst socially distancing.
“But they still face heavy restrictions like being advised to avoid food shopping, going to pharmacies or their workplaces.
“The government also hasn’t yet delivered its commitment to provide greater help to this extremely vulnerable group, and Macmillan has heard from people living with cancer that existing ‘shielding’ support isn’t getting through.”
The government must now lay out how it will make sure the needs of the most vulnerable and isolated are met, McIntosh added.