MORE than two million people who shielded during the peak of the pandemic have been given new guidance for the second wave of infections.

The Government has revealed that none of the alert levels in the three tier system will automatically trigger a warning to resume shielding – which saw the most vulnerable people stay home for months.

However, they may be asked to take extra precautions if their area is moved to the high or very high alert level, such as reducing shopping trips, or only travelling if necessary.

Deputy chief medical officer for England Dr Jenny Harries said: “Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen a sharp increase in the prevalence of the virus across the country and we know those who are clinically extremely vulnerable are looking for practical advice on how they can carry on their lives while the virus remains in our communities.

“The new system will provide clarity on how best those in this group can keep themselves as safe as possible depending on the rates of transmission in their local area.

“Whilst advisory, I would urge all those affected to follow the guidance wherever they can and to continue to access health services for their medical conditions.

“We will continue to monitor the evidence closely and fine-tune this approach to make sure everyone in this group is clear about the safest way to go about their daily lives, particularly over the coming winter months.”

Many people on the shielding list have pushed for clarification after the new system was revealed yesterday afternoon.

The latest update came after concerns that those on the shielded list became extremely isolated during the first wave, with some too fearful to leave their homes for several months.

In the future, those living in the very high risk areas (known as Tier 3 or Covid alert level three) could be advised to adopt formal shielding if necessary, but they would receive a letter setting out the precautions they should take.

Vulnerable people in the lowest alert level areas should observe social distancing, meet others outside where possible, and limit unnecessary journeys on public transport.

In high alert areas, reducing the number of people you meet, avoiding non-essential journeys, reducing the number of shopping trips, and working from home is advised.

Those in very high alert areas are encouraged to stay at home as much as possible, and avoid all but essential travel. Reduced shopping trips, using online delivery slots, or having someone shop for you is also advised.

People in all of these areas are encouraged to still go outside for exercise, and can still go to school and to work if they cannot work from home.

The Government said all those who shielded previously are already helped by wider protection measures not previously in place when shielding was originally introduced, such as the rule of six and face coverings.

Letters will be sent to all those affected by the new guidance.

Shielding, which was paused at the end of July, aimed to protect those at greatest risk of severe illness and death from Covid-19.

Clinically extremely vulnerable people include those who have had an organ transplant, people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy and those with lung cancer undergoing radical radiotherapy.

People with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of their treatment are also included, as are those with cancer who are having immunotherapy or other targeted treatments.

Other conditions included are severe respiratory illnesses including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Gemma Peters, chief executive of Blood Cancer UK, said: “It is completely unacceptable that even in areas where the alert level is very high, the Government expects people with blood cancer who cannot work from home to carry on travelling into work.”

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “With coronavirus rates continuing to increase, now is the time to take action and ensure we protect the most vulnerable in our society.

“Today’s announcement will mean every person most at risk from serious outcomes from the virus will have specific advice targeted to local levels, which they can follow to keep themselves as safe as possible, while ensuring they can also keep as much normality in their lives as possible.”

The new guidance says shielding would only be reintroduced for short periods of time if at all.

It says: “In the future, the Government will only reintroduce formal shielding advice in the very worst affected local areas and for a limited period of time.

“This will only apply to some, but not all, very high alert level areas and will be based on advice from the chief medical officer.

“You are not advised to follow formal shielding advice again unless you receive a new shielding notification advising you to do so.”