Boris Johnson is gambling with shielders’ lives by ending support on 1 August | Frances Ryan

The government hopes it will no longer be necessary to shield – but tell that to those people in England who are at highest risk

On Monday, a major change to lockdown will begin: people with underlying health conditions in England who have been shielding since March will be able to meet up outside in groups of up to six people, while those who live alone will be allowed to form a “support bubble” with one other household. The government has said high-risk people will no longer need to shield at all from 1 August.

This should be a moment of relief. Shielders have in many ways become the forgotten millions of this pandemic – told to stay inside their homes for almost four months, unable to even go out for five minutes of fresh air for much of that time, yet receiving remarkably little political or media attention. As the rest of the public begins to enjoy significant reductions in lockdown, it may seem right to give some reprieve to the group who more than anyone else have been cooped up away from loved ones. It is also positive for shielders to have some information at last and a timeline in place (with the caveat that shielding may be restarted if necessary), after months of dire communication.

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Boris Johnson is gambling with shielders’ lives by ending support on 1 August | Frances Ryan