THOUSANDS of people with health conditions are preparing for an easing of the restrictions they have been living with due to COVID-19.

More than 45,000 residents across Leeds, including in Aireborough and Wharfedale, have been advised to shield themselves since March.

The advice was given to anyone with a condition that makes them ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ to the coronavirus. Initially told to stay at home at all times - and not even venture out for exercise - because of the risk, many have not seen family, friends or loved ones for more than 12 weeks.

Many have relied on help, from community groups and Leeds City Council, with everything from the delivery of essential supplies and medication to dog walking.

This week, thanks to the infection rates having lowered significantly, the shielding restrictions have been eased - and are set to be ‘paused’ altogether from August 1.

The changes mean people who have been shielding can now safely meet outdoors with people in physically distant groups of up to six, and those who live alone can form a mutual support bubble with one other household. Those in the group remain vulnerable, however, and the city council is asking everyone to help keep them safe by following distance and hand washing rules.