THE First Minister yesterday outlined plans to provide a “real improvement” to the quality of life of those shielding in Scotland.

As part of measures being eased as the country moved into Phase 2 of lockdown, Nicola Sturgeon revealed those people shielding would be among those to experience change immediately. 

There are around 180,000 people in the shielding group, which includes organ transplant recipients, those on active chemotherapy, those with severe lung disease, those with certain metabolic diseases, the significantly immunosuppressed and pregnant women with underlying heart problems.

They also included anyone primary care physicians deemed vulnerable.

At the start of the pandemic they were all sent a letter telling them to stay indoors and take extra precautions until June 18.

Last week, Nicola Sturgeon extended that, telling them that they would need to shield until the end of July.

READ MORE: Is Scotland's 'slow and steady' exit already working?

HeraldScotland:

So what has changed for people shielding in Scotland?

Here we outline what you can and cannot do now we have moved into Phase 2. 

I’m in a shielding household, what CAN I do now?

Confirming her pledge last week, the First Minister revealed that anyone who is shielding (unless they live in a nursing or residential care home), can now go outdoors for exercise – whether it be a walk, a wheel or cycle. 

But the First Minister added an extra easing. From today – Friday, June 19 – shielding people can also take part in non-contact outdoor activities.

This includes things like golf, fishing and hillwalking. 

Ms Sturgeon also revealed that those shielding can meet outdoors with people from one other household – however these are to be in groups of no more than eight. 

When you do go outside, you are urged to choose times and areas that are quiet – and wash your hands thoroughly as soon as you get back home. 

What can I still NOT do?

The First Minister urged people who are shielding to “continue to be extremely cautious” – remaining at least 2 metres away from other people at all times, “even if you live with the person you’re out with”.

Unlike the general public, you cannot go inside someone else’s house, or allow someone from another household to go inside yours – even to just use the toilet.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson's UK-Australia trade deal is no cover for the mess of Brexit

What has the reaction been?

Brian Sloan, chief executive of Age Scotland, described the announcement as a “light at the end of the tunnel” for older people.

He said: “The easing of lockdown for hundreds of thousands of older people living alone will come as a huge relief.

“So many older people have endured lockdown without any face to face contact with family or friends for three months now, and it has been extremely difficult for them.

“For the half a million over-60s in Scotland who don’t use the internet, there hasn’t even been the option of video calls with loved ones. They have had to rely on the phone for conversation.

“The result of such prolonged isolation is that loneliness levels are through the roof and having a profound impact on the mental and physical health of older people.”

He added: “Today’s announcement is a small step towards normality, and must of course be done in compliance with safety guidelines, but at last there is light at the end of the tunnel for our older people who have felt very cut off from society during this pandemic.

“They can now look forward to seeing family and friends and when it is safe to do so, being part of their communities again.”