Millions of clinically vulnerable people will breathe a sigh of relief this week, as the advice to stay at home and shield comes to an end. The government has been writing to people in this group over recent weeks to advise them that they no longer need to shield at home after Wednesday.
The move comes as a result of the number of Covid cases and hospital admissions falling. Close to four million people across England and Wales have been shielding on the advice of the government. Shielding advice for the clinically vulnerable in Northern Ireland and Scotland is due to end in April.
Social distancing still vital
Officials have warned that although the government will no longer tell people in this group to stay at home and shield, social distancing is still vital. Clinically vulnerable individuals are still advised to limit their social interactions and work from home where possible.
Millions have been placed on the clinically vulnerable list because they have a higher risk of being hospitalised if they contract the virus. Many have found it extremely difficult to isolate at home. In contrast, many others feel anxious about venturing back out again due to a lack of confidence.
One man who has been shielding for the past year due to muscular dystrophy told the BBC, "Where I was able to go out, I didn't feel I wanted to. I didn't feel confident to face people again. I've always been sociable...It's had a massive impact."
Other restrictions already eased
At the start of this week, the stay-at-home Covid restrictions for the wider public came to an end. This means people are now allowed to meet outdoors and in private gardens in groups of six or up to two households.
The end of these restrictions coincided with glorious weather and soaring temperatures, which led to many people heading to parks and beaches to enjoy time with family or friends. While the easing of restrictions has seen people across the nation breathe a sigh of relief, the Prime Minister has warned the nation is not out of the woods yet.
Images showed people packed together on beaches and parks around the country, with social distancing appearing to have been all but forgotten. This has caused concern among many despite the success of the Covid vaccination rollout across the country.
Boris Johnson said that it was vital that people continued to follow the rules despite being able to go outside and meet up again. He added that the surge in cases across Europe coupled with emerging variants still posed a considerable threat to the UK.