For clinically vulnerable young people, ‘freedom day’ isn’t a celebration – it’s terrifying
Is the government making a fatal mistake?
It was the news that excited many, delighted a few and – frankly – baffled absolutely everyone else. During yesterday’s (19th January) PMQs, Boris Johnson announced that all Covid restrictions will be scrapped by 24th March.
This means self-isolation periods will no longer be compulsory if you test positive. Instead, advice and guidance will be provided on a case-by-case basis.
Johnson’s Plan B measures will expire next Thursday (27th January), putting an end to Covid passes, mandatory work-from-home measures and face masks.
For some people, this will feel like a huge weight has been lifted. But while you’re dancing with randomers in clubs, eating at restaurants, going to festivals and enjoying everything returning to normal; a huge number of young people will still be stuck inside, just as they’ve been since March 2020.
The absolute fear that I feel as someone who will have 0 immune system, knowing that in 2 months people will not need to self isolate with COVID, cannot be put into words
— Bethany Dawson (@bethanymrd) January 19, 2022
Understandably, the majority of young people aren’t scared of Omicron. But while most of us are keen to catch it and “get it out the way,” we’re severely underestimating the impact this virus may have on our bodies. Clinically vulnerable young people are particularly sick of being shafted in the name of normality. There’s nothing *normal* about shielding on your own for years, not being able to see friends or even go for walks without worrying about Covid.
I spoke to three immunocompromised girls about what the easing of restrictions will mean for them:
‘The news is literally terrifying’ – Izzie
“I have cystic fibrosis and I’m deemed clinically extremely vulnerable by the government,” she told me. “I’ve had my two vaccines (plus booster) and have been shielding since March 2020. I end up hospitalised after getting minor colds.
“I know that people feel as if self-isolation restricts their freedom but it’s just five days. People like me have needed to isolate for years because we’re so afraid of catching Covid. How can you compare those two things?
“It feels very much like vulnerable people just don’t matter at all. Realistically not many people will actually self-isolate, which is frustrating. It’s going to make things very, very difficult.
“People just don’t realise the impact on us. It’s devastating.”
‘This is a green light for people who never cared’ – Corinne
“I’ve had to shield since the start of the pandemic,” Corinne said. “I have ME and Menieres disease (along with Endometriosis and PCOS) which are chronic conditions. I was so anxious at the start and so relieved every time restrictions were re-tightened.
“As testing, social distancing and masks came into force I felt more confident about leaving the house and seeing friends. Now for them to completely remove isolation and masks it feels as if people like me are just collateral damage.
“People didn’t stick to the rules when it was the peak of the pandemic, so removing all rules is a green light to those who don’t really care. The fact that there are now more people with long term Covid seems to be irrelevant to the government.”
Although fearful, some clinically vulnerable people are planning to welcome the news with open arms. Jasmine has been shielding for almost two years, but she’s excited for her family and friends to celebrate freedom day.
‘It’s about time’ – Jasmine
“As a clinically vulnerable person I had to shield by myself in a studio flat for months,” she said. “My parents and sister are all medics working for the NHS so to keep myself safe I couldn’t see them for a long time.
“I caught Covid along with my whole family soon after we met up again for the first time at the end of 2020, and I ended up in hospital.
“I’ve never felt more unwell than when I had Covid. I’ve had heart surgery before and even that couldn’t compare.
“Now that restrictions are ending and things are opening up again, I’m actually of the opinion that it’s about time. I feel a better way to handle the virus would’ve been to keep people like myself in shielding but to have allowed everyone else who’s not vulnerable to catch it.
“Isolation and shielding have caused so many issues and the reality is it’s not a good option for everyone.”