Shielding advice for most vulnerable could be in place until at least July, warns Robert Jenrick

Laura Donnelly
Shielding - PA
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Government advice about shielding the most vulnerable will be reviewed in two weeks, but is likely to remain in place until at least July, the communities secretary has said.

Around 2.2 million people classed as “extremely vulnerable” have spent more than two months confined to their homes, after being issued with advices to stay home completely, and rely on deliveries of food and medication.

Ministers have said that as of today, those who live with family members can go outside with them from Monday while those living alone are allowed to meet one other person outdoors, at two metres’ distance. Such individuals are still being told not to visit shops or other enclosed places.

On Sunday, Robert Jenrick said the latest guidance will be reviewed again in the week starting June 15, and pledged to ensure that the situation for such groups is examined whenever lockdown changes are made for the rest of the population.

But he said it is likely that shielding measures will stay in place until at least July, though further changes may be made to make the burden easier.

Mr Jenrick said today’s changes would enable those shielding “to see loved ones, like children and grandchildren - something many I know, are aching to do.”

But he said those who have spent months indoors would understandably be very cautious about going outdoors and should only do what they felt comfortable with.

And he said some form of shielding is likely to remain in place for some time.

“While the shielding guidance is currently in place until the end of June, it may need to be extended beyond that point.”

He said the review would “review the risks for the clinically extremely vulnerable and assess whether, as we currently believe, the shielding period needs to be extended, and whether it is possible for the shielding guidance to be eased further.”

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After the review, the NHS will write to everyone on the list with information about the advice and support available, he said.

On Sunday, one of the government’s scientific advisors said shielding advice could be “fine tuned” because some groups are less at risk than previously thought.

Professor Peter Openshaw, who sits on the the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) said research now suggested that some of those who had been given the advice were actually far less at risk than had been thought. 

He said: “The order to shield has been based on a presumption of sensitivity to coronavirus, but there are some huge studies coming out now, and I think with this new information it may seem that many people who we thought might have been vulnerable in fact, are not vulnerable.”

Those at lower risk than previously thought include those who had recovered from cancer some years earlier and those with asthma who are not on oral steroids, he said.

“I think we're going to be able to fine-tune the advice now, and actually reassure some people who we feared might be susceptible to that, in fact, they're not as vulnerable as we thought so that's really good news,” he told The Andrew Marr show.