MORE than 3.79 million extremely vulnerable people in England will no longer have to shield this week as the vaccine programme storms ahead.

In January, people who were at very high risk of serious illness from coronavirus were advised by the Government to stay at home.

Around 1.7 million more people were added to the shielding list after experts identified more adults at serious risk of Covid-19 in February.

The guidance stressed people could still go outside for exercise or to attend health appointments, while keeping all contact with others outside of their household to a minimum.

They were also urged to avoid busy areas.

But when can vulnerable people stop shielding and what can they do to stay safe as lockdown eases?

When can people stop shielding?

The Government has now said people won't need to shield from Thursday (April 1) as lockdown restrictions are further eased.

Under the roadmap out of lockdown, those who are on the shielded patient list can start to follow the national restrictions along with the rest of the population.

However, the Government has stressed these people should take extra precautions to keep themselves safe from Covid-19.

This comes as the rule of six came back into force on Monday (March 29), allowing people to socialise outside of their household bubbles - meaning Easter picnics and barbecues will be on the cards.

How to stay safe

Letters to patients with updated guidance should have been sent from the Government, often distributed by local councils.

These set out steps people can follow to reduce their risk of catching the virus, including continuing to maintain strict social distancing and to keep socialising at low levels.

One way this can be done is working from home.

If this is not possible, employers are required by law to take steps to make workplaces Covid-19 secure and should discuss this with their employees.

If people have already registered for priority access to supermarket delivery slots, they will continue to be able to access these until June 21, 2021.

If you need to travel, walk or cycle if you can and travel outside of peak hours to reduce the number of people you come in contact with.

How many vulnerable people have been vaccinated?

More than 9 in 10 clinically extremely vulnerable people have already been vaccinated with their first dose, according to data from March 18.

However, it is important to continue to follow the rules and take extra precautions in a bid to keep people as safe as possible.

Groups of people at high risk from Covid-19

According to the NHS, patients deemed to be at high risk of developing complications from Covid-19 include:

  • solid organ transplant recipients
  • people with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe chronic obstructive pulmonary (COPD)
  • people with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as Severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), homozygous sickle cell)
  • people on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection
  • people who have problems with their spleen, for example have had a splenectomy
  • adults with Down’s syndrome
  • adults on dialysis with kidney impairment (Stage 5 Chronic Kidney Disease)
  • women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired
  • people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy
  • people with lung cancer who are undergoing radical radiotherapy
  • people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
  • people having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
  • people having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
  • people who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs

Children and young people at “high risk” from Covid-19 will continue to be identified based on the guidance published by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH).