The instruction to shield will end tomorrow (1 April) in England meaning around four million people will no longer be advised to stay home as much as possible.
People who are clinically extremely vulnerable have been advised to minimise contact with other people and the outside world as much as possible for most of the last year.
The formal advise to shield will come to an end, but England’s deputy chief medical officer said people should still take “extra precautions” after 1 April.
How many people have been shielding?
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.
While everyone in the UK has had to follow the lockdown rules and wider Covid-related restrictions, those who are extremely clinically vulnerable have been advised not to leave home at all if possible.
This has forced many people to rely on support from friends, local mutual-aid groups and NHS responders to do their shopping and collect medicines for them.
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.
‘Take extra precautions’
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.