The Government has announced that the 2.2 million people who have been self-isolating in England during the coronavirus pandemic will no longer need to shield from 1 August.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has sent out a Shielding Update letter from 22 June clarifying how Covid-19 shielding measures will be eased, with an end date of 1 August.

The letter, addressed to shielding patients, confirms that from 6 July they may, if they wish, meet in a group of up to six people outdoors, including people from different households, while maintaining strict social distancing, and no longer need to observe social distancing with other members of their household.

Those who are shielding and live alone in England, including single parents who are shielding, will be able to create a support bubble with one other household of any size. 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.

However, all the other current shielding advice will remain unchanged at this time.

Support packages will remain in place until the end of July to help people transition.

From 1 August the advice to "shield" will be paused. From this date, the Government is advising pa-tients to adopt strict social distancing rather than full shielding measures. Strict social distancing means they may wish to go out to more places and see more people but should take particular care to mini-mise contact with others outside their household or support bubble.

This means that from 1 August patients can go to work, if they cannot work from home, as long as the business is Covid-safe, go outside to buy food, to places of worship and for exercise but should maintain strict social distancing, and children who are clinically extremely vulnerable can re-turn to their education settings if they are eligible and in line with their peers.

Patients are advised to remain cautious as they are still at risk of severe illness if they catch corona-virus, so the advice is to stay at home where possible and, if they do go out, to follow strict social dis-tancing.

The Government said the shielding measures can soon be eased because infection rates are falling. The changes mean, however, that those shielding will no longer be eligible for statutory sick pay un-less they develop coronavirus symptoms, or someone they know develops symptoms, and they are told to self-isolate and cannot work from home.

Free essential food boxes will stop being delivered, but support from NHS volunteers and local coun-cils is still available. They will also still qualify for priority slots for online shopping and will be given help with attending medical appointments and with medicine deliveries.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed during the Downing Street press briefing on Monday 23 June that the Government would keep the shielded patient list in case patients were required to shield again in the future. New risk assessment research methodology by Oxford University will be also be published that would allow for a "much more individualised way" for patients and their doctors to be able to understand a person's risk.

More detailed guidance will appear on GOV.UK website when the changes come into effect on 6 July and 1 August.

Shielding Update: Letter to Patients is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/shielding-update-letter-to-patients-22-june-2020.

Translations and accessible formats of the letter from the Government are also being sent to patients who are shielding.

Northern Ireland has already said people will no longer need to shield from 31 July, although officials said this will only happen if the rate of community transmission remains low. In Scotland, the advice applies to around 180,000 people and is in place until at least 31 July. In Wales almost 130,000 peo-ple are shielding and the Chief Medical Officer for Wales said the current guidance runs until at least 16 August.

Last reviewed 30 June 2020