Clinically vulnerable people should shield until at least the end of March, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, as he set out England’s roadmap for exiting lockdown.
In a statement to the House of Commons on Monday afternoon, he outlined four steps for easing restrictions, starting with schools reopening on 8 March.
It comes as the Government added 1.7 million people to the shielding list just last week, with the launch of the QCovid risk algorithm.
Mr Johnson said: ‘From 8 March people will also be able to meet one person from outside their household for outdoor recreation such as a coffee on a bench or a picnic in a park in addition to exercise.
‘But we are advising the clinically extremely vulnerable to shield until at least the end of March.’
However, the prime minister said the road out of lockdown would be based on ‘data not dates’, and four tests will be used throughout to progress the easing of the measures.
They include the continued successful deployment of the vaccine programme; evidence showing vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths; infection rates not risking a surge in hospitalisations that would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS; and new variants of concern not fundamentally changing that risk assessment.
It comes after the promising news, unveiled by Public Health England today, that one Covid vaccine dose reduces hospitalisation risk by more than 75% in the first study of the impact of vaccinations in England.
The Government is now also aiming for all adults in the UK to have been offered their first Covid jab by the end of July.
Meanwhile, the QCovid risk algorithm is now being ‘actively reviewed’ after some young, healthy women were being told to shield despite not being at high risk from Covid-19.