Roughly ten weeks after the government’s insistence that 1.5 million of the UK's most vulnerable people should "shield" in self-isolation for a minimum of 12 weeks, those same people are now allowed outside in England.
This means that in England, people who are shielding can now leave their home if they wish, “as long as they are able to maintain strict social distancing.”
Shielding is a means of protecting society's "extremely vulnerable" from contracting Covid-19.
Those categorised as vulnerable because of an underlying health condition should have received written communication from their GP practice or specialist on how best to protect themselves in March.
Those affected were advised to stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact for a period of at least 12 weeks from the day they received their letter.
But what does it mean for shielding employees? Will they have to go back to work now?
Here’s everything you need to know:
What do the changes in England mean?
In England, changes come into force today (1 June).
“People who are shielding remain vulnerable and should continue to take precautions but can now leave their home if they wish, as long as they are able to maintain strict social distancing,” say the Government.
“If you choose to spend time outdoors, this can be with members of your own household.
“If you live alone, you can spend time outdoors with one person from another household. Ideally, this should be the same person each time. If you do go out, you should take extra care to minimise contact with others by keeping 2 metres apart. This guidance will be kept under regular review.”
More information on English shielding measures can be found here
Can shielding employees return to work?
The government’s advice states that those who are shielding “can now leave their home if they wish, as long as they are able to maintain strict social distancing,”
Since maintaining social distancing could be hard to do in your place of work – let alone on the journey getting there – this means that shielding employees should not be returning to work.
What if I want to return to work?
Since shielding is more for your own good than that of the others around you, the advice on it has always been “advisory”.
If you are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus, you are “strongly advised” to shield yourself to reduce your chance of getting the virus.
“You will not be fined or sanctioned if you prefer to follow the guidance on staying alert and safe (social distancing),” say the Government.
“You may also choose to remain in your own home at all times if you do not feel comfortable with any form of contact with others. However, careful time outside in the fresh air is likely to make you feel better in yourself.”
So in theory, if you have been shielding up until this point, you could opt to return to work, but this will be a deeply personal decision you may want to discuss with family or others that are close to you.
It’s also recommended that you phone your GP or specialist to discuss this as well.