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A woman wearing a face mask walks along a road in Durham, northeast England, on May 25. Oli Scarff / AFP / Getty Images

Highly vulnerable people in the United Kingdom who have “protected” – stayed home at all times and avoided face-to-face contact – will be allowed out of Monday, the British government said in a statement ahead of the official announcement on Sunday.

Community Secretary Robert Jenrick will announce that 2.2 million people who are clinically very vulnerable will be able to go out with their household members, while continuing to follow social distance guidelines, according to a government statement. The updated guidelines say those who live alone can meet outside with one other person from another household.

This is seen as a gift to the most clinically vulnerable, including many who have not been in direct contact since they were first advised to protect it 10 weeks ago. However, that happened when a member of the scientific advisory council for the British government – SAGE – warned that early easing of locking of the coronavirus could cause a large number of new cases and deaths throughout the country.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan also on Saturday urged residents to “act with caution” as the government prepares to relax locking measures on Monday, expressing concern that the country was “rushing” to ease restrictions.

However, the government advises those who protect: “The average chance of catching the virus now drops from 1/40 to 1/1000, providing greater assurance that it is safe to carefully reflect this in the guidelines for those who have been advised to protect. “He added that people who protect must stay at a distance of two meters from the others when outside, may only leave the house once a day and may not go to work or shop. They also need to avoid crowded places where they cannot get social distance.

“I want to thank all those who have followed the protection guidelines – it is because of your patience and sacrifice that thousands of lives have been saved,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “I don’t underestimate how difficult it is for you, staying at home for the past 10 weeks, and I want to pay tribute to your endurance.”

Johnson thanks those who have helped deliver drugs and shop or inspect isolated people. “We have seen how we can make life easier for those of us who are most vulnerable, so … I am happy to confirm that those who protect will be able to spend time outside with others, observing social distance guidelines,” Johnson said. “I will do what I can, according to scientific advice, to continue to make your life easier over the coming weeks and months.”

“Thanks to the sacrifices made throughout the country, which have protected the NHS and saved lives, it is time to start lifting restrictions, step by step, and while we all need to remain vigilant, we can now begin to start feeling normal again,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.

During his speech at the government’s daily press conference on Sunday, Jenrick was expected to establish a plan to review the protection guidelines at the same time as the government reviewed its social distance measures. The next review will take place later this month.

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