Around 95,000 people in Northern Ireland have received shielding letters advising them they are at serious risk from Covid-19, it has emerged.
Health Minister Robin Swann has revealed approximately 95,000 patients have received the letter from their GP or hospital doctor, in response to a question from Colm Gildernew, chair of the Stormont health committee.
From today, the patients and members of their household can meet with up to six people outdoors, as long as strict social distancing is followed.
However, they should continue to follow other shielding advice until the end of this month, when it is hoped there will be less Covid-19 circulating in the community.
Alex Easton, a member of the Stormont health committee, said it is vital that anyone who has been shielding will be provided up with frequent updates on any outbreaks in the coming months and added: "People who have been shielding will no doubt be very anxious and that's why it's so important that the contact tracing system is working properly."
The Public Health Agency today launches a new mass media campaign to raise awareness of the symptoms of Covid-19, the importance of testing and the role contact tracing can play in limiting the spread of infection with the aim of stopping a second surge.
Dr George O'Neill, a prominent GP based in west Belfast, said: "I think a second wave is a possibility not a probability."
He also said it is "incumbent upon the chief medical officer and others to come up with clear advice" in the coming weeks for people who have been shielding to provide them with the reassurance they need to reintegrate into society.
He said: "Telling people who are shielding that they can go out is the exact opposite to all the advice they have been given up to now, so that it hard.
"I suppose it's a bit like driving a car, you take a risk driving a car but you mitigate that risk by not speeding, by wearing a seatbelt, so it's going to be the same for people who have been shielding.
"They need to have a balanced and sensible approach and testing will also be important to identify pockets and alert those who are particularly vulnerable so they can take the necessary precautions to stay safe."