What are the changes for people shielding from coronavirus and when do they come in

People who have spent months at home as they shielded from coronavirus have been told their restrictions will soon ease.

The advice given to the 2.2 million clinically vulnerable is to change, allowing them to meet up with up to six people from other households – under strict social distance rules – and form “social bubbles” with another household, which would allow them to stay overnight.

The moves are among a series announced by Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Dr Jenny Harries, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, as they led today’s Downing Street press conference.

It also heard questions about why the North East has seen such high levels of the virus, with the Government pledging to “level up” the region’s health and wealth as it looks into the reasons why.

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Dr Harries has said from Monday, July 6, people will be able to meet up with others, while the briefing also told people they can return to work from August 1, under assurances from employers their workplace is “COVID-safe.”

She said those shielding should take advantage of the expected good weather this week to become accustomed to reintegrating themselves back into society.

Speaking at the daily briefing, she said: "Now we're out of the peak of the epidemic in the UK and estimated levels of community transmission and infection are back to those before shielding commenced, we are in a position to start relaxing the shielding advice over the next few weeks.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Jenny Harries and Health Secretary Matt Hancock led today's coronavirus briefing, which set out new guidance for those who have been shielding.

"We may well have some summer weather a little in our favour too and therefore our advice to those shielding is to take some steps now to start coming back to a more normal lifestyle.

"This has been a very difficult and sometimes frightening period for people who have been shielding and therefore to give people time to prepare, we are setting out the advice in a stepped approach."

Dr Harries said that, if shielding does need to be recommended again due to coronavirus, doctors will be able to work on a more tailored approach with patients now that more is known about the virus and who is most impacted.

People have been told to speak to their doctors in coming weeks to discuss their own situation, while she said children who had been staying at home because they are shielding would be better off in the classroom.

Mr Hancock paid tribute to those who had been shielding and those supporting people staying at home during the pandemic.

He said: "I want to say a huge thank you to those who have shielded, all those who have looked after them and to each and every one of you who have played your part to bring this virus under control."

In a message to employers, he said: "Please, work with us to ease the transition back to a more normal way of life for shielding employees.

"We expect you to do the right thing."

The Cabinet minister said NHS volunteer food and medical deliveries would continue to reach those shielding until the end of July, while seven supermarkets have pledged to continue to offer priority delivery slots available for as long as is needed.

Matt Hancock said that while the shielding programme was being "paused" it could be reinstated if the clinical guidance changed.

"I use the word 'pause' very deliberately because the (shielding) list will continue and should the clinical advice be that we need to bring it back in, then that is what we will do," he said.

He also noted the rising number of global cases underlined the need for quarantine arrangements, while the press conference opened with the news that the daily number of people testing positive for coronavirus has fallen to below 1,000 for the first time since the peak of the epidemic.

For the first time since the peak, there were now fewer than 5,000 people being treated in hospital for the virus.

He said that the numbers of people going into hospital with the disease and the numbers in the most serious condition were both coming down while the latest daily figure for people dying after testing positive had fallen to 15 - the lowest since mid-March.

He said that it was now estimated that just one in 1,700 people had the disease compared to one in 400 a month ago, enabling Boris Johnson to set out a further easing of the lockdown tomorrow.

"All these figures are coming down and pointing in the right direction. It shows that while there is still much to do, we are clearly making progress," he said.

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