SHIELDING will officially pause on Saturday, but there will still be help at hand for thousands of vulnerable Islanders who need assistance with the transition to begin arranging their shopping, medical prescriptions or social support.

The Isle of Wight Council has pledged to continue its work in supporting around 6,000 residents who are currently shielded or isolated, so they can begin the transition to become self-dependent again.

For those residents where there is a genuine ongoing support need and no alternative available to them, the council will continue to work to find the appropriate support service to assist them.

Since the government made the announcement last month that people would no longer be advised to shield from August 1, staff and volunteers have been busy contacting those affected to discuss their ongoing support needs and preparations.

Council leader, Cllr Dave Stewart, said: "Many of these people may be known to us, as neighbours, friends and family and will need all our support to regain confidence as they transition back to a greater level of independency.

"Many will have been shielding for some four months without close contact with friends and family — so it will be a big step.

"We are continuing our support for anyone who is stopping shielding in the coming weeks. Do get in touch with us if you need help with arranging food shopping, prescription collections or if you are feeling anxious, and we will endeavour to help."

The helpline — 823600 — will be retained for the immediate future.

More than 550 emergency food parcels have been delivered to vulnerable Islanders during the pandemic, as well as regular shopping arrangements put in place with the assistance of local community groups and volunteers.

More than 730 welfare checks have been undertaken and, in total, 23,237 'check-in' calls went out.

Hundreds of heartfelt messages of thanks have inundated the service each week.