Shielding measures will not be reintroduced in England although those considered “clinically extremely vulnerable” should take practical steps to reduce exposure to COVID-19.

The Department of Health and Social Care said it will write to people who have increased vulnerabilities with tips on how they can keep safe.

The advice will be specific to the person’s area and what their local COVID-19 alert level is, using the new three-tier system.

Health officials are keen to avoid a strict shielding approach which was previously carried out during the March lockdown, because many people “felt imprisoned”.

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.”

However, some charities have criticised the government, saying the advice is not enough and vulnerable people also financial and mental health support.

Speaking to the BBC, Gemma Peters, chief executive of Blood Cancer UK, said: “The Government needs to urgently revise this guidance and give financial support to people with blood cancer who cannot work from home.”

Sarah MacFadyen, head of policy at Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, said, told the BMJ they needed “ urgent clarity” from the government.

In the community:

She said: “We need urgent clarity from the government as to how and when people with severe lung disease will be able to access this tailored guidance, particularly those in high and very high alert areas.

“Crucially, we need answers now for those people who cannot work from home to know how their income will be protected if they are advised not to go into work. More than six months on, people are still being asked to make the impossible choice between health and financial security.”

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