Charities said it was not fair that those who were furloughed from their jobs would get 80 per cent of their salary, while those who cannot work because they were vulnerable might only get statutory sick pay. Some charities said those with cancer could be left struggling to pay their bills, and struggling to get groceries and medicines delivered.
There are currently 2.2 million people classed as clinically extremely vulnerable. These include those undergoing treatment for cancer and those who are immunosuppressed or suffering from conditions such as cystic fibrosis.
Around 90,000 children who were on the lists the first time round have been taken off amid increasing evidence about the lower risk of the virus to those in younger groups.
All those classed as clinically extremely vulnerable should now receive a letter explaining the changes to the guidance.
Health officials have said the previous system of shielding, while successful in keeping people at home, had been a “blunt tool” which did some harm. They said too many people “felt imprisoned” by the previous advice, which was taken by many to be an order.
Everyone aged over 60 and younger people with underlying health conditions have been classed as “clinically vulnerable” and told to be “especially careful” to follow the lockdown rules. Pregnant women and those who are morbidly obese are being given the same advice.
Those classed as extremely clinically vulnerable include 200,000 people with blood cancer in the UK who were advised to shield during the first lockdown. Since then, research has found that blood cancer increases the risk from coronavirus more than almost any other health condition.
Gemma Peters, the chief executive of Blood Cancer UK, said it was right that those at risk should stay home as much as possible, but stressed that more support was needed.
She said it was not right that people who were furloughed will get 80 per cent of their salary while those who cannot work because they are vulnerable might only be eligible for statutory sick pay, adding: “This would be unfair and would leave many workers with blood cancer unable to pay their bills.”