People who are clinically extremely vulnerable will be advised to avoid those who have not been vaccinated against Covid when all remaining restrictions are eased in England next week.
Those most at risk of serious illness from the virus should continue to meet outdoors where possible and ask friends and family to take a lateral flow test before visiting from July 19, according to government guidance.
The updated advice is aimed at the estimated 3.7 million in this group, which includes people with certain cancers and those with severe respiratory conditions.
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“As someone who is at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill if you were to catch Covid-19, you may wish to think particularly carefully about additional precautions you might wish to continue to take,” the guidance says.
The advice acknowledges how difficult social distancing has been for people who were advised to shield in the past, as it suggests a series of measures to reduce the risk of the virus spreading once restrictions are lifted.
It suggests meeting outdoors wherever possible to reduce the risk of airborne transmission, as particles are blown away, and ensuring that indoor spaces are well ventilated.
Other measures suggested in the guidance include “considering whether you and those you are meeting have been vaccinated”, as well as “asking friends and family to take a lateral flow test before visiting you”.
In terms of going shopping or to a pharmacy, those who are most at risk will be advised to follow the guidance that applies to the rest of the population from July 19.
But the guidance adds: “You may still wish to consider going to the shops and pharmacy at quieter times of the day.”
'It's going to make us prisoners again': For some 'freedom day' is a source of fear not joy
The easing of restrictions are a source of fear not joy for those who are vulnerable to the virus. Jane Leahy is in remission from blood cancer and has been shielding and working from home throughout the pandemic.
She told ITV News earlier this month that the scrapping of all restrictions would make "prisoners" of vulnerable people.
"It’s been difficult" she says, "we’ve spent a lot of time at home...we were looking forward to getting out now."
"It’s too much too soon for the general population and, for those of us who feel vulnerable, it’s just going to push us back into our own homes and make us prisoners again."
Jane says she will be staying away from any celebrations after the end of lockdown restrictions and will be "steering clear from crowds or any situations that may put me at risk."
The end of mandatory mask-wearing has been a controversial part of the plans for step four of the roadmap with Labour calling for a u-turn on the issue.
Jane says she's "really quite scared" by the prospect of people no longer being made to wear masks and worries that "if it's not enforced...people will ditch it."
"I need other people to protect me because I am immunocompromised and I don’t know how I would react if I were to catch Covid."
Liberal Democrat health spokeswoman Munira Wilson questioned whether the government was pursuing a “survival of the fittest” policy where the “most vulnerable will be thrown to the wolves”.
She raised concerns over the impact of easing restrictions on the vulnerable, telling the Commons: “They and many clinically vulnerable people, such as pregnant women, are living in fear of what living with Covid means for them.”
Wearing a face covering in crowded areas, such as public transport, may make those classed as clinically extremely vulnerable “feel more relaxed”, guidance published on Monday evening suggested.
Charities representing people with weakened immune systems have previously expressed dismay that members of the public will be able to ditch face masks from next week.
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The MS Society and Blood Cancer UK criticised the government over the support available for those still vulnerable to the virus, adding that July 19 would not mark “freedom day” for many.
An Office of National Statistics (ONS) study found only 37% of clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) people felt comfortable or very comfortable going into hospitality, educational and cultural settings. They study, coronavirus and clinically extremely vulnerable people in England: 21 June to 26 June 2021, found only 37% of CEV people felt comfortable or very comfortable going into hospitality, educational and cultural settings.Of those CEV people not comfortable going into healthcare, hospitality, educational or cultural settings; the most commonly reported measures that would help put them at ease include mandatory wearing of face coverings (75%), regular sanitation including the use of hand sanitiser (75%) and procedures at the venues to enable social distancing and avoiding close contact (69%).