All the new Covid rules for 3.8 million people shielding in England from today
1 April 2021, 06:52 | Updated: 1 April 2021, 06:56
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed that vulnerable groups in England will no longer have to shield at home.
As lockdown rules in England continue to ease, 3.8 million people who were told to shield will now have more freedom.
The new rules - which start today (April 1) - allow extremely clinically vulnerable groups to meet with five other people outdoors.
Those who are most at risk from coronavirus will also be able to go to the shops again and to work if they cannot work from home.
However, the Government has warned the clinically vulnerable should continue being extra cautious to keep themselves safe.
In a letter sent to those affected, they have been told to keep social contact as low as possible.
“Until the social distancing rules are eased more widely, it is important that you continue to keep the number of social interactions that you have low,” it states, adding “Try to reduce the amount of time you spend in settings where you are unable to maintain social distancing."
Vulnerable people should keep using online shopping services, with priority access to supermarket delivery slots continuing until June 21.
Despite restrictions relaxing, the Government advises they work from home where possible, with the letter stating: “Everyone is advised to continue to work from home where possible, but if you cannot work from home you should now attend your workplace.”
As of April 1, shielders will no longer be able to claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) unless they are incapable of work.
Vulnerable children and students should also return to their studies at school, college or university.
While shielding has come to an end in England and Wales, plans have not been finalised for Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Shadow Minister for Disabled People Vicky Foxcroft, said: “Those who have been shielding will have mixed feelings about the end of this period – some will be relieved it has come to an end, while others will be understandably anxious.
“The Government must do everything possible to reassure those who are vulnerable that it is safe to stop shielding.
“Support should remain in place for those wanting to continue to shield until they have received their second vaccine.”
This comes as more than 30 million people in the UK have had their first dose of a Covid-19 jab, including more than nine in ten clinically extremely vulnerable people.