Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand
From Monday, people who have been shielding in England and Wales during the coronavirus crisis can exercise and meet people from another household outdoors.
The Government will publish full guidance on how the 2.2 million extremely vulnerable people shielding from coronavirus can safely venture out for the first time in months.
Robert Jenrick explained during Sunday's coronavirus briefing that those shielding could go out with members of their households and meet people using social distancing rules.
If a shielding person is living alone, then they will be able to meet an individual from another household.
Of the new guidance which allows people to spend time outdoors, he said: “This will enable those shielding to see loved ones like children and grandchildren, something many I know are aching to do.
Furthmore, Mr Jenrick said the next review of shielding measures will take place in the week commencing June 15 and officials will consider the next steps of the programme “more generally” beyond June 30.
“Following that review, the NHS will also write to all individuals on the shielding patient list with information about next steps on shielding advice and the support that will be available to them.
“If the conditions become less favourable, our advice to those being asked to shield will, unfortunately, need to be tightened.
“The government will continue to ensure that support is available to those who need it for as long as possible, and for as long as people are advised to follow the shielding guidance.
“Once again, can I thank all those shielding for your patience, and for your fortitude.
“Everybody across the country appreciates the unique challenges that you face, and we want to continue to do all we can to ensure that whilst you might be at home shielding for a bit longer, you are not alone,” he said.
On Sunday it was announced that shielded people in Wales would be allowed to exercise outdoors, adhering to social distancing rules and hygiene practices.
They would also be able to meet with people from another household outside, but should not go into another person’s house or share food with them.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised their resilience as he said those shielding from Covid-19 in England will be able to spend time with other people outdoors.
In a statement released on Saturday night, Mr Johnson said: “I want to thank everyone who has followed the shielding guidance – it is because of your patience and sacrifice that thousands of lives have been saved.
“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.
“We have been looking at how we can make life easier for our most vulnerable, so today I am happy to confirm that those who are shielding will be able to spend time outside with someone else, observing social distance guidelines.
“I will do what I can, in line with the scientific advice, to continue making life easier for you over the coming weeks and months.”
Steven McIntosh, director of policy at Macmillan Cancer Support, said the decision was “a step forward” for a group who “have felt left behind and forgotten” as lockdown is eased for others in England.
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.
“So the Government must now set out how they will guarantee the needs of the most vulnerable and isolated are met.”
And Phil Anderson, head of policy at the MS Society, said people would want to hear the scientific evidence behind the decision.
He said: “Over 130,000 people live with MS in the UK and thousands of them have been left feeling forgotten after months of shielding. While for some it may be a relief that this relaxation is happening in England others have been left feeling confused. We’re extremely concerned this news has come out of the blue – people who are extremely vulnerable will rightly want to hear a lot more about the scientific evidence showing this will be safe for them.
“If the Government is serious about supporting vulnerable people who are shielding they need more than just the ability to go outside. Crucially, we want to see better mental health support for everyone who needs it.”
Coronavirus: Everything you need to know