Lockdown easing on hold as shielding ends | Sunday Observer

Lockdown easing on hold as shielding ends

LONDON, Aug. 1 (BBC) - People shielding against coronavirus can now leave their home and return to work, as a further easing of lockdown restrictions in England is postponed.

More than two million at high risk will no longer need to isolate in most of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

But charity Macmillan Cancer Support has said people in the shielded group do not feel safe.

It comes after the PM applied the brakes to easing restrictions further and as some businesses remain closed.

Labour said it supported the government’s decision but criticised the initial lack of detail in Thursday evening’s announcement about the tightening of restrictions for parts of the north of England.

Elsewhere, Graham Medley, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which advises the government, has said England could have to consider closing pubs in order to reopen schools in September.

“It might come down to a question of which do you trade off against each other and then that’s a matter of prioritising, do we think pubs are more important than schools?” He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Meanwhile, a new report suggests more than half of the people furloughed during the pandemic are now back at work, as companies begin contributing to the costs.

When lockdown began in March, those considered extremely clinically vulnerable - an estimated 2.2 million people in England - were advised to stay at home, or shield, to avoid contracting Covid-19.

People in high-risk categories include those who have had an organ transplant, are receiving immunosuppressant drugs, undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy, or have severe respiratory conditions.

Now, they can return to work if they cannot work from home and as long as their workplace is Covid-secure. It is still advised they maintain social distancing when outside.

From Saturday, those who were shielding in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland will no longer receive food boxes and medicine deliveries from the government.

Media captionBoris Johnson: “Our assessment is that we should now squeeze that brake pedal”

But shielding advice remains in place for Blackburn with Darwen in the north-west of England, Leicester and Luton, and the most vulnerable will continue to shield in Wales for another two weeks.

Eve Byrne from Macmillian Cancer Support said the organisation had written to the government over concerns shielders are having to “make the impossible choice” between their health and their job.

“People in the shielded group are telling us that they are just not feeling safe,” she told the BBC, adding that government needs to ensure the necessary protections are in place for people returning to work.

Norah Grant, who has chronic lymphocytic leukaemia and leads a support group for people under 60 with the condition, says the decision to end shielding was “very odd just considering everything that is happening in Manchester and all around”.

“I don’t think I will be changing my habits,” she tells BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, adding that she will be able to work from home in one of her two jobs.

“A lot of people in our [support] group are very nervous about going back to work,” she says.

Sara Swanson, who has an immune deficiency which means she cannot produce antibodies, says she will also continue to shield.

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