Vulnerable people across the UK have expressed fear over the changes to shielding rules which will allow them to meet others for the first time in three months, from Monday.
Those shielding from coronavirus in England will be allowed to meet other people outdoors in groups of up to six from July 6 and those who live alone or single-parent households will be able to create a “support bubble” with one other household of any size.
However, those who have spent much of the last 102 days avoiding the rest of the population have said they feel hesitant about the risks.
Sophie Jones-Cooper, 41, from Cheltenham, spent five weeks isolating in her bedroom, away from her husband and three children, because she was classed as extremely vulnerable due to having Crohn’s disease.
She told the PA news agency: “I am a lot warier and scared because I have built up a safety net which has made me feel secure.
“I think everyone else being told that they can relax, that scares me as well. You know, people meeting up in pubs soon and having too many drinks and forgetting to be sensible — they will probably be okay even if they get it.
“But people like me, there’s more risk of me getting it and we’ve done so much as a family and have been through so much emotionally to stay safe. It is a shame if people don’t respect that people still are at high risk from it, it hasn’t gone away and it’s still a problem.”
The family will not be “bubbling” with anyone but have considered inviting grandparents over and seeing them in a socially distanced way in the garden.
The personal shopper, who runs the business, My Stylish Friend, has decided to start making face masks while isolating at home during what she called a “really testing time”.
Her husband, Alex, had to take time away from work so he could look after their seven-year-old son and four-year-old twins while she was isolating.
She said: “I had to put a lock on my door because they didn’t really understand.
“We just found a way of it working, and surviving and literally taking it one day at a time. Because otherwise, it would have felt like this epic amount of time.”
Because of the new medication she is on, she is now classed as high risk and medical staff have warned her to be careful when things begin opening up again.
She said: “It is concerning to think that while I’m on this medication I will be in this category but it is even more important to be sensible and careful because of people like me.
“But we need to get on with our everyday lives.”
Hollie, 25, from Merseyside, is a trainee conveyancer who has been shielding due to her asthma.
She said: “I haven’t really spoken out loud to anyone outside my immediate family or my manager since lockdown.
“Everything is different now. I went to Tesco with my boyfriend for the first time last week and it blew my mind how different everything is. I went down all the one-way aisles the wrong way because I wasn’t used to the one-way system they have there now
“People think they’re clever coming up with loopholes but it’s just stupidity and selfishness.”
She said she wasn’t worried about going outside but is now “more wary” around people and will be avoiding populated areas.