Ministers are forcing susceptible individuals to defend once more – with no help this time | Frances Ryan
B.oris Johnson mentioned tomorrow’s Freedom Day, but for many of the 3.8 million people in England who are clinically prone, it will feel anything but different. With most of the remaining Covid restrictions in England lifted – from masks in public places and social distancing to instructions for working from home – people are at high risk of serious illness or death from the virus are now exposed to a worrying degree.
The government has released updated guidelines to help clinically vulnerable people in the new circumstances, although “guidelines” may be spurring this. It’s a sparse document that essentially advises people with underlying health problems not to walk indoors or around unvaccinated people during the summer. There is not a word on how exactly a person should know if someone else has been vaccinated, or how to get away from the significant portion of the population who are not yet fully vaccinated, or the minority who t at all (including possibly our own caregivers ). There are also no tips on how to avoid entering buildings, be it having a clinically vulnerable parent taking their child to school or an employee going to work.
Any worried minister who hadn’t thought this through just had to read her advice on supermarkets. The guide suggests that disabled people survive by shopping “at a quieter time of the day” – little help to most of us who are busy and whose days don’t turn on the general public’s schedule, and certainly of no help when You are clinically susceptible and actually work in a business. (Large retailers like Tesco have responded by issuing their own mandatory mask guidelines.)
It is less of a plan than a pretext in which the government relinquishes responsibility for protecting its high-risk citizens by “advising” them to get away from it all. The effects are already clear enough: Research by the Scope charity in the run-up to the rule changes revealed that only 2% of disabled people felt safe.
Ministers have Essentially invented unofficial shielding, telling millions of people to isolate themselves, but this time without even minimal government support. There are currently no specific or consistent protective measures in the workplace for clinically endangered employees. The priority places for supermarkets have been taken away. The vacation is due to end in September. When ministers put in place a system of “personal accountability” to fight the coronavirus, they are in effect putting all responsibility on people at high risk.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the government has looked at clinically vulnerable people from the wrong angle – that they are either all older and retired (many are young and working) or that having a disability means they don’t have a career, children, or friends like everyone else other. It is a prejudice-based public order that has created a situation where people with underlying health problems are viewed by many as a kind of “other”. In fact, these millions of people are an integral part of the land. Your bus driver may have asthma. Your child’s teacher could have muscular dystrophy. Your doctor may have had a kidney transplant. Even if it were ethical to effectively ban these people from society, it is absolutely impractical.
The response to concerns from clinically vulnerable people is often “we cannot stay locked down forever”. But that’s a straw man. It’s not high-risk people that have resulted in longer lockdowns than would otherwise have been necessary, it’s bad government decisions. in addition, Nobody wants harsh restrictions, not least clinically vulnerable people who have spent more time indoors than anyone else. What is needed are low-cost, practical measures that enable all of us – young and old, with and without underlying diseases – to make life together as safe as possible.
This means continued employment protection and adjustments in access to work for people at high risk, such as the right to work from home whenever possible, and flexibility in start and end times so that vulnerable workers can avoid rush hour public transport trips ; Government “advice” not to commute during rush hour is useless if your boss wants you to be at 9am. It also means maintaining protective measures in public places while infection rates are high; the downsizing of the cabinet in recent days over the use of masks in some settings and the intervention of some regional mayors give an indication of how illogical it is to remove them.
As useful as vaccinations are, it must also be understood that they are not a silver bullet. Those who say “vaccinate only the weak” ignore the fact that up to half a million people in the UK are not fully protected by the vaccine because they have certain health conditions or are taking certain medications. New YouGov data shows that 68% of adults in the UK are unaware that such people are not protected as effectively as the general public by both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine. Additional precautions like wearing masks and social distancing are vital to protecting them and the clinically vulnerable children and adolescents who are still ineligible for vaccination.
The consequences of the government’s dire plan will be all too predictable: more unnecessary deaths of the clinically at risk, workers at high risk of losing their jobs, and greater mental health problems. This is a group of people who have already carried an unimaginable burden throughout the pandemic, from quitting their job to stay safe and not seeing family or friends for 18 months, to taking antidepressants due to isolation.
If the coronavirus crisis has taught us anything, it is that each of our actions affects others. How the masks fall and space is dwindling, those at risk from the virus are now forced to lock themselves back behind their front door. Freedom for some looks like restriction to the rest.