Clinically vulnerable people allowed to leave home as of this week
From Monday, people in England and Wales who are deemed vulnerable to Covid-19 will be able to venture outdoors for the first time in ten weeks.
Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said that the move was one of several “modest” steps being taken toward easing the lockdown.
Speaking during Sunday’s daily briefing, Jenrick said that those who have been shielding can leave their home with members of their household, or to meet somebody from another household.
He added that vulnerable individuals should only venture out if they are comfortable doing so, warning that the restrictions may be tightened again if there is an upsurge in cases.
Among other measures in place as of Monday, people in England can meet in groups of six provided they are outdoors and social distancing is practised. Primary schools in England are also reopening for pupils in Reception, Year One and Year Six.
Nonetheless, there has been concern about the speed at which the government is easing restrictions among some scientific experts. There have also been calls for the government to publish the scientific advice justifying the changes.
Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies [SAGE], said over the weekend that the easing of lockdown measures is a “political decision” and that the virus still has a high presence.
As of Sunday’s briefing, the UK Covid-19 death toll had reached 38,489.
The R value of Covid-19 in the UK is currently between 0.7 and 0.9, and Jenrick reassured that the government would not look to lift restrictions further if the R rate goes above one or comes near to doing so.
Jenrick added: "We're going to be doing this in a cautious and data-driven way in the days and weeks ahead.”
Addressing the easing of restrictions, foreign secretary Dominic Raab told the BBC that the decision to relax restrictions had come from scientific evidence and satisfaction of the government’s five tests for easing lockdown.
He said: “Because we have made that progress steadily, slowly, surely - week in, week out - we can very gradually, very carefully, take the steps that we are taking.”
Elsewhere, the UK made 205,634 Covid-19 tests available on Saturday, beating the government’s new target of upping capacity to 200,000 per day by the end of May.
Health secretary Matt Hancock hailed the increase in testing capacity as “an important milestone” in the battle against the virus.