During the first lockdown, around two million people defined as “clinically extremely vulnerable” were given advice to “shield” themselves at home and avoid contact with with others. Under the programme, food parcels and delivery of medicines were offered in a bid to keep those most at risk at home.  

This time, no shielding programme is in operation. Guidance will be published on Monday advising the two million people – including those undergoing treatment for cancer and those who are immunosuppressed – to minimise their contact with others and not to go to work if they are unable to work from home. Unlike last time, such groups will be advised to leave the house for exercise. 

Those who cannot work from home will be eligible for benefits, but charities have expressed concern that the most vulnerable may not receive enough support.

The Government abandoned the shielding programme after health officials admitted the policy caused “harm” and “left people feeling imprisoned”.

On Saturday, Boris Johnson said: “If you are clinically vulnerable or over the age of 60, you should be especially careful to follow the rules and minimise your contacts with others.

“I know how tough shielding was, and we will not ask people to shield again in the same way again. However, we are asking those who are clinically extremely vulnerable to minimise their contact with others and not to go to work if they are unable to work from home.”

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