Lockdown rules relaxed but vulnerable may remain shielded for 'several more months'

29 May 2020, 09:38

The lockdown restrictions could remain in place for some for several more months
The lockdown restrictions could remain in place for some for several more months. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Environment Secretary George Eustice has warned LBC that those shielding from coronavirus may have to continue to do so "for several more months".

The Government Minister was speaking a day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a slight easing of the coronavirus lockdown.

Restrictions due to Covid-19 have been in place across the UK since March 23, with the PM announcing England would see rules around outdoor gatherings relaxed.

As of Monday, people in England will be able to gather outdoors in socially-distanced groups of six. This means that groups can meet in parks and private gardens for chats and barbecues.

Read more: New coronavirus lockdown rules: What changes have been made to Covid-19 restrictions?

Outdoor gatherings will also be allowed in Wales from Monday, however, there is no limit on the number of people who are allowed to meet.

Scottish citizens do not have to wait until Monday to visit family and friends, with restrictions being eased from Friday to allow gatherings of up to eight people.

Meanwhile, groups of up to six people are already allowed to gather outdoors in Northern Ireland after some restrictions were lifted earlier this month.

Read more: PM announces friends and family can reunite as lockdown starts to ease

Environment Secretary says vulnerable people have to isolate for "several months"

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Asked about ways to make life easier for those who are shielding, the Environment Secretary told LBC's Nick Ferrari: "Well it is something that we are looking at because we completely recognise that those who are shielded and clinically vulnerable who have been told to isolate and not to see friends and family at all, that is going to start taking its toll on them and we want to be able to find ways to be able to do that.

"But it is very, very difficult because they are clinically vulnerable and nobody obviously wants to visit family in that group and find that they've given them the virus.

"So we don't have answers yet, that's why they have to remain shielded for the time being, possibly for several more months."

He added that it is "a difficult situation with that shielded cohort".

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As a Downing Street press conference, Chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty stressed that although groups of six would be able to meet up outside to socialise and even enjoy barbecues people from different households must keep two metres apart.

Read more: Prime Minister hints pubs could reopen before July as social-distancing reviewed

Prof Whitty said the more than one million people deemed extremely clinically vulnerable must continue shielding, but offered a glimmer of hope when he said that the infection level may be sufficiently reduced to allow their freedom "relatively soon".