VULNERABLE people in England will not be asked to 'shield' from Covid-19 past the end of July, the UK government announced this evening.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said people who are shielding in England can meet in groups from July 6, ahead of the scheme being "paused" at the end of that month.

But the new deadline will not apply in Wales, where the Welsh Government has already set out a different timetable for easing the rules.

Mr Hancock's announcement signals a further divergence in the Westminster and Cardiff Bay governments' approaches to easing the coronavirus lockdown.

Shielding protects more vulnerable people whose underlying health conditions may put them at risk of a more serious illness if they contract Covid-19.

In Wales, the chief medical officer has already advised the roughly 130,000 residents who are shielding to continue to do so until August 16.

But shielding residents in Wales are now allowed to leave their homes for unlimited outdoor exercise and to meet locally with people from one other household.

That advice remains unchanged despite the UK government's announcement this evening.

"We know shielding is not easy, but we are continuing to advise this group of people to take these measures because, although coronavirus is declining in Wales, it has not gone away and these shielding measures will continue to protect this group of people," Dr Chris Jones, the deputy chief medical officer for Wales, said this evening.

"We know the UK government is making changes to the advice it will be issuing to people who are shielding in England from July.

"But our advice to people who are shielding in Wales remains the same as set out in the letters sent by the chief medical officer earlier this month."

Dr Jones said all other shielding advice in Wales remains in place – this includes working from home; not sharing meals or utensils at home; sleeping in a separate bed; not sharing towels and cleaning the bathroom after use.

"I would encourage everyone who is shielding to take advantage of opportunities to go outside and enjoy some of the good weather as this has significant benefits to health and well-being," he added.

"I would like to reassure those who are shielding that we have not forgotten about them. We keep the shielding advice under constant review as we know how hard shielding is."