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4.5m FACE NEW LOCKDOWN

UP TO 4.5million people could be requested to ‘shield’ at home again amid a rise in Covid-19 cases.

Those at risk — based on factors such as underlying health conditions, age, and weight — will be sent letters containing advice on how to protect themselves from the virus.

The plan will initially operate in areas with high levels of infection but will be rolled out nationwide if required, reported the Sunday Telegraph. ‘We keep all aspects of our response to the pandemic under review. Shielding for the extremely vulnerable is still advised in areas where prevalence of the virus is higher,’ a government spokesman said.

It comes amid growing concerns about a rise in Covid-19 cases in care homes. A letter, sent on Friday, urged care bosses to ‘take the necessary action to prevent and limit outbreaks’.

Most cases so far have involved staff but there is ‘clearly’ a risk the virus will spread to residents, says the letter from Stuart Miller, director of adult social care delivery at the Department of Health.

It reads: ‘Over the past three days, Public Health England has reported a rise in Covid-19 cases in care homes. Unfortunately, in some with recent outbreaks, residents have also become infected.’

A government report marked ‘official sensitive’ says infection rates recorded at satellite testing sites — most of which serve care homes — have quadrupled since the start of the month, according to The Sunday Times.

And health secretary Matt Hancock (pictured) was last week alerted that outbreaks had affected 43 care homes. A Department of Health spokeswoman said: ‘We are testing all residents and staff, have provided 200million items of PPE and ring-fenced £600million to prevent infections in care homes, with a further £3.7billion available to councils to address pressures caused by the pandemic, including in adult social care.’