Darren Adam 1am - 4am
Final day of shielding for almost 4 million people in England and Wales
31 March 2021, 09:05
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.
Shielding will come to an end in England and Wales on April 1, while plans for Scotland and Northern Ireland have not yet been finalised.
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.
"If you have been shielding, we strongly urge you to take extra precautions following April 1 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."
More than 30 million people in the UK have had their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination and more than three million both shots.
Yesterday the ONS revealed almost half of the UK population has Covid-19 antibodies either through infection or vaccination, and the nation was enjoying its first steps out of lockdown.
However it was not all smooth sailing, with raucous scenes in Nottingham which forced the council to ban drinking alcohol in parks.
In Leeds, armed police were called to attend a park and hundreds of people gathered on Brighton beach in groups of more than six for a post-lockdown party.