'Light at the end of the tunnel now' - shielding comes to an end for millions

Ben Hurd has terminal brain cancer and has been shielding for months Credit: ITV Calendar

Nearly four million people will no longer be asked to shield to protect themselves from the serious side-effects of Covid-19 as of Thursday.

An initial list of 2.2 million clinically extremely vulnerable people were advised to take the measures to avoid potential infection, and 1.7 million more were added to the list in February.

The first list included people with single risk factors such as those with various cancers, people on immunosuppression drugs or those with severe respiratory conditions.

But as the pandemic has progressed, medics found that some people are at higher risk than others because they have multiple risk factors.

Ben Hurd has terminal brain cancer.

After being shielded inside the walls of his parents home at Goldthorpe, near Barnsley, today was a welcome taste of freedom.

"It feels good. I can finally get out and see some people in gardens.

"It has been tough not seeing anybody. There's light at the end of the tunnel now for everybody. As long as we keep to the rules."

It was just a gentle stroll around the block with his mum, Jenny. She says it's been so important for the former chef to be able to get outside.

"It has been hard. He's had a lot of mood swings, but that's understandable. This will do him the world of good."

Earlier this month, Dr Jenny Harries, the deputy chief medical officer for England, said: “With the prevalence of the virus in the community continuing to decrease, now is the right time for people to start thinking about easing up on these more rigid guidelines."

But, despite today's breakthrough, caution is the mantra of kidney transplant recipient Shagufta Sharif, from Bradford, who recently had her first vaccination. 

"I just worry as soon as restrictions are lifted, people will become complacent again.

"Yes we do need to balance getting back to normal, but the virus is still out there. People are still dying and getting ill."