“We all need to stay vigilant to the risk of a second wave of infection.”

That is the message from Cllr Louise Gittins following the Government’s decision to relax shielding restrictions.

As announced by Health Secretary Matt Hancock yesterday, Monday, people in England who are currently shielding can meet in groups from July 6, with shielding coming to a stop at the end of next month.

But the leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council is urging people across the borough to continue abiding to social distancing measures and good hygiene practices to ensure this risk remains low.

In a statement, Cllr Gittins said: “I would like to pay tribute to the 14,300 residents of west Cheshire who have been following the difficult but necessary health advice and ‘shielding’ by self -isolating at home, and in some cases within their own households, since March.

“I’d like to thank council staff, community and voluntary organisations, health colleagues, partner agencies, businesses, mutual aid groups and good neighbours who have been involved in the huge network behind the community response to support and protect those who are shielding.

“We understand that many people will be feeling anxious now that changes in shielding advice have been announced.

“We want to reassure you that your safety will continue to be paramount.

“The council will continue to provide support for those facing hardship, our contact centre phone lines will remain open beyond August 1 and we will continue to support those who need it the most.

“We all need to stay vigilant to the risk of a second wave of infection.

“We all need to continue to play our part in adhering to guidance, respecting social distancing rules, wearing face coverings on public transport and washing our hands.

“Our message continues to be to stay safe and protect our communities.

“We hope there will not be a need for this group to return to being shielded.”