The guidance for those shielding from coronavirus will be relaxed in Scotland from Friday, meaning 180,000 of those at the greatest risk of Covid-19 will be able to go to pubs and restaurants with outdoor spaces, meet indoors with up to eight people from up to two households (with physical distancing), visits shops or hairdressers and use public transport.
The changes come ahead of a “pause” in shielding from 1 August. So what do those who have been shielding think about the changing guidance?
‘The virus is still out there’ – Pirita Tuisku
Pirita Tuisku says it’s “daunting” to see the restrictions easing up.
“The virus is still out there”, she says. “I know what to do to keep myself safe, but my biggest fear is the other people and especially those people who don’t care about physical distancing.
“It’s always on my mind that the virus hasn’t gone away – there still is a chance to catch it.”
On what it’s been like to be stuck at home for months, Pirita says it has been lonely: “It was daunting to stay indoors – especially when I live alone and my family is in another country.
“It hasn’t been easy, and many times I’ve felt lonely. But my work has kept me going.”
‘Not everyone who is shielding looks ill’ – Sheila
Sheila says going from someone who is always out and about to being “suddenly classed as vulnerable” came as “a bit of a shock”, but she realises it’s for her own safety.
She said: “I think it’s so important for people to realise shielders aren’t all visibly vulnerable and elderly folk.
“My worry is because I don’t look ill that people are not going to social distance from me.
Sheila – from Tobermory, on the Isle of Mull – said she had no plans for indoor meetings, or in fact anything that isn’t essential.
She added: “I run a B&B which I can’t reopen this year – it’s just not safe; I won’t risk it.”
Markets she is happy to visit, and even work at. With the B&B on the back burner, she said setting up her own stall, selling honey and candles from her bees, at an outdoor market.
“I have a hair appointment booked, but that’s absolutely necessary! And I feel perfectly safe about that – it’s just one lady who works from home, on one customer at a time.”
‘It could have been so much harder’ – Rebecca Giblin
Rebecca generally keeps very well, but had to shield because she has a kidney transplant.
“I’ve been really lucky – I moved in with my boyfriend at Christmas. It would have been much harder if I’d been living on my own”, she says.
On restrictions easing, she said: “Half of me is thinking ‘Yay!’, but the other half is nervous.
“I just want to be the same as everybody else – I am usually really independent. It’s been strange to have all that taken off me.
“It’s not like I’m ill and frail – I’ve got a normal life so it’s been harder than I thought it would be.”
One of the first things she looks forward to is doing her own shopping again: “It seems a trivial thing to be nervous about but my world has become really, really small.
“I’m not rushing back to the pub – that feels like quite an uncontrolled environment.
“But I would really like my haircut. My partner cut my hair – neither of us are keen to repeat that!”
‘Shielding got harder as lockdown was eased’ – Alan Goodpatrick
NHS worker Alan, who has Crohn’s and asthma, has been shielding too. His wife and young son have been isolating with him.
He finds the prospect of venturing out again or going back to work quite daunting.
“Shielding has been more difficult as lockdown rules have eased”, he says.
“Other people seem to think that the virus has vanished its back to normal again – this has made it difficult sometimes to go out for a walk.”
Alan, who is from Broxburn in West Lothian, wants people to remember everyone has different circumstances and so to keep their distance.
‘A little bit apprehensive’ – Noeline Ann Hughes
Noeline Ann says she has had not long moved to St Abbs when lockdown started: “Although I had moved here for the peace and quiet of it, to be told I couldn’t go anywhere was a shock – it’s been very isolating.”
While shielding has been tough, she said she doesn’t know how else the situation could have been handled.
“I am glad for the changes, it’s been so strange. I would be happy to go out – as long as I can put my mask on and follow the rules.
Although she is looking forward to going out, she won’t be going to shopping centres or busy places for a while.
“I am a little bit apprehensive. I went to go on the beach the other day and it was packed, so I thought ‘I’m not going there!’,” she said.
“I’ll go to supermarket and wear my mask, do everything you’re supposed to do. But not big shops or centres.”