Coronavirus shielding advice to end from 1 April in England and Wales

18 March 2021, 09:02 | Updated: 18 March 2021, 09:14

Shielding ends on April 1: Pictured, a man wearing a face shield walks outside Westminster Station in London
Shielding ends on April 1: Pictured, a man wearing a face shield walks outside Westminster Station in London. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

People deemed clinically extremely vulnerable will no longer have to shield from Covid-19 from April 1 in England and Wales.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed at a press conference last night that the shielding advice, which had been extended to 31 March, would end on April 1.

Mr Hancock said the change was recommended by deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries.

Last Friday, chief medical officer for Wales Dr Frank Atherton confirmed the end of shielding on March 31, due to falling case rates in the country.

The change to the shielding guidance applies to more than 3.7m people in England and 130,000 people in Wales.

People on the shielding list can begin to follow the national restrictions alongside the rest of the population from April 1, but are still advised to take extra precautions to keep themselves safe from COVID-19.

People who were shielding in England prior to April 1 should continue to maintain strict social distancing and to keep their overall social contacts at low levels, such as working from home where possible, the Department for Health said.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Dr Jenny Harries said: “Shielding has always been an advisory measure to safeguard those who are the most clinically vulnerable in our communities. We recognise how difficult this period has been for so many and the impact it has had on people’s wellbeing.

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“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.

“If you have been shielding, we strongly urge you to take extra precautions following 1 April to keep yourself as safe as possible, such as continuing to observe social distancing and working from home.

“We will continue to monitor all of the evidence and adjust this advice should there be any changes in infection rates.”

Vaughan Gething, minister for health and social services, said last week that shielding in Wales will come to an end at the end of March.

“From 22nd December the advice to the clinically extremely vulnerable has been that they should no longer attend work or school outside the home and should remain at home as much as possible,” Mr Gething said.

“This change was made in the context of cases of coronavirus rising exponentially, alongside the identification of a new variant of coronavirus circulating in Wales. This advice is in place until 31st March.

“Case prevalence is now significantly below what it was in December and on a trend downwards across Wales.

“In light of the change of context, the Chief Medical Officer has recommended that the advice to the clinically extremely vulnerable to follow shielding measures should be paused after the 31st March.”