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Shielding requirement to be “paused” on July 31

ANYONE who had received a letter advising them to shield themselves during the height of the Covid crisis locally will soon be getting another letter telling them this period of shielding will come to an end on July 31.
Subject to the the ‘R’ number, which measures the rate of infection of the virus in the community, remaining low, those who had been isolating for various reasons will be advised they can venture outdoors again as long as they strictly follow social distancing guidelines.
“I have been clear that shielding would not last one minute longer than it needed to. We have now reached the point where, if the current trends continue, there will be no need for anyone to shield after 31 July,” said Health Minister Robin Swann, who announced the upcoming measure this afternoon.
“I have listened to many of you and to the challenges you have faced during this period. I am in no doubt as to the difficulties shielding has presented for a great many people.”
Minister Swann added: “It is unrealistic to think these difficulties will just vanish because the need to shield has ended. That is why the letters we issue will provide details of the support which will continue to be available up to and after 31 July.
“While my announcement today will be welcome news for many who are shielding, some will view the prospect of an end to shielding with great anxiety. I want to assure them that they should decide what to do at their own pace. Everyone will approach this situation differently.
“As is so often the case at present, this will be about weighing up the options and making informed choices. Going outside can bring some degree of potential risk but this can be mitigated and minimised by strict social distancing. Staying indoors indefinitely is not good for anyone’s mental or physical health.
He concluded: “Finally, I would ask everyone to be considerate as people end their periods of shielding.
“We should all continue to social distance, but in the coming weeks I want you to be particularly understanding of the fact you might be encountering someone who has had to stay at home for many weeks. Please be aware of this, show respect and kindness to all and keep your distance.”
The previous period of shielding had been due to end on June 30, subject to review. The Department of Health has said it will now be “indefinitely paused” after July 31, but warned “it is possible that shielding will need to be resumed at some future date, depending on the risk.”

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