Over 3.7m people in England can stop shielding on 1 April - new rules at a glance

Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable will be sent a letter with updated guidance (Photo: Shutterstock)

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed that vulnerable groups in England will no longer have to shield at home as of Thursday 1 April.

Since 5 January 2021, around 3.7 million clinically extremely vulnerable people in England have been advised to stay at home as often as physically possible to avoid contracting coronavirus.

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This included advice to avoid shops and busy areas, as well as avoiding all contact with anyone outside household members or support bubbles.

Other recommendations included asking those shielding not to attend pharmacies, instead getting friends or family to pick up medicines on their behalf.

Change due to a drop in Covid transmission and hospitalisations

After an extension of shielding guidance to 31 March, England's Deputy Chief Medical officer Dr Jenny Harries has now recommended that the guidance ends on 1 April.

The change has been based on data showing a drop in transmission of Covid-19 and hospitalisations.

Over the next couple of weeks, vulnerable groups will receive letters advising them of the change, and telling them that advice will remain in place to keep social contacts at low levels, keep a distance from others, and work from home where possible.

In February, 1.7 million people in England were added to the list of people advised to shield.

As with many other coronavirus restrictions, shielding guidance varies between the four nations, though Wales will be following England in advising that people can stop shielding from 1 April.

Those who have been shielding have been offered priority for the coronavirus vaccine, and many have received their first dose already.

The NHS has now warned, however, of a reduction in supply during April, saying that no additional appointments should be added to the booking system next month.

The Government has said it anticipated difficulty with supplies, and believes the current target of getting all adults vaccinated with their first dose by the end of July 2021 should still be met.