Shielding set to end for people at high risk from Covid
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People who are deemed to be at high-risk from coronavirus and were asked to shield during the lockdown will no longer be required to do so from tomorrow.
Hundreds of residents across Suffolk and north Essex have spent the last few weeks and months staying at home, being unable to visit friends and family or do any in-store shopping.
Those who are defined as extremely clinically vulnerable to Covid were prioritised for vaccinations - with more than 60% of the population in Suffolk and north east Essex already receiving their first jab.
During the first lockdown last spring, people who were shielding were urged not to go outside at all for several months.
However, in the current lockdown that guidance changed to “stay at home as much as possible” and people were allowed much more freedom.
People were allowed to meet one other person for exercise and were also allowed to form 'support bubbles' with another household if they met certain criteria.
Shielders were urged to order their groceries online and were given priority access for delivery slots at supermarkets.
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Jo Reeder, chief executive of the BSEVC charity, which has been supporting people throughout the lockdowns, said a lot of shielders will not be "automatically confident" despite the lifting of measures.
She said: "The first lockdown was quite sudden for a lot of people. What people were worried about was how they would get their provisions.
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"But the lack of social contact has become a real problem. We have seen a rise in anxiety levels.
"We are really seeing that extended isolation period starting to have a real impact on people. Some have not had a proper conversation in a long time.
"Some have managed it really well with adopting new technology, but others have struggled.
"The real positive out of this has been the community engagement we have seen.
"Just because shielding is lifted, it doesn't mean people will be automatically confident about going out.
"I think people are hopeful about the lockdown being lifted, but many are realistic. It won't be a case of throwing open the door and saying 'hello world, we're back'.
"It's just about being sensible and doing this gradually."