‘I have never felt safe’: UK shielders on new lockdown | World news

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Teacher Kate Osborn breathed an immense sigh of relief when Boris Johnson advised the clinically extremely vulnerable to begin shielding again. Not for herself, she continued to shield and work from home throughout last year, but for all of those who could not live off £94 statutory sick pay.

“I’ve been concerned about other shielders risking their lives,” she said. “I know people who had to go into frontline work when shielding ended on 1 August. All it did was take away the statutory protection. I’ve had a terrible guilt for people who have not been able to shield.”

The 50-year-old, from Cambridgeshire, who has lung diseases and severe asthma, and has been teaching remotely while her children have stayed away from home, says all shielders should have had a choice of whether to continue isolating.

Kate Osborn in Venice prior to the pandemic.

Kate Osborn in Venice prior to the pandemic. Photograph: Guardian Community

“I’m glad to be shielding again,” says teaching assistant Sharon, who takes immunosuppressant medication for Crohn’s – which led her to be hospitalised last year – and did not wish for her surname to be published.

“It’s right for kids to be in school but I’ve never felt that safe. The first lockdown I didn’t even leave the garden – you weren’t allowed to leave your premises so I didn’t do anything at all, it was awful. But then all of a sudden I’m in a classroom with some 30 kids and two teachers, packed in like sardines.”

Aaron Foulds, 49, an insurance broker with asthma so severe that he has been hospitalised following chest infections on a number of occasions, never stopped shielding – only venturing outside, to the hospital, three time since 13 March.

“It doesn’t take me much to get out of breath, it’s not something I can risk getting, the outcomes are not expected to be any good” he says of contracting Covid.

Aaron Foulds at an event prior to the pandemic.

Aaron Foulds at an event prior to the pandemic. Photograph: Guardian Community

But Foulds, who lives in Keyleigh, Yorkshire, is most concerned about the delay to the second dose of the vaccine: “Changing it without any concrete evidence seems to be quite a risky strategy. The government have no form in getting these decisions right: ‘Wear a mask, don’t wear a mask’, ‘Eat out to help out, don’t go out’. It just worries me this is another one they might get wrong.”

He said he will only “take a chance” and go outside after he had received a second shot of the vaccine. “I take vitamin D supplements too, and again that was off my own back early doors,” he added.

Foulds at the hospital.

Foulds at the hospital. Photograph: Guardian Community

“I’ve been doing what I think was right,” he said. “They were late shutting down the first time, and it didn’t make any sense when they stopped shielding because the virus was still out there. They still haven’t even updated the website with the new shielding advice yet [as of 5.30pm Tuesday].”

But retired electrical engineer Jim Petrie, 78, who has COPD, feels mass restrictions are tantamount to effectively placing people “under house arrest”, and just wants the freedom to continue to stay active – playing golf regularly and attending his local health club in Glasgow.

“Covid would certainly be very bad for me, but I want to be able to decide for myself so long as I’m not affecting other people,” he says. Scotland’s chief medical officer wrote to shielders on Monday saying they should stay at home as much as possible: “We are not advising you stop going outside, which we know is good for mental and physical health.”

Petrie also believes there have been failures throughout the pandemic. “The problem is both the faulty PCR testing and exaggerated forecasts. I’m losing my liberty because the authorities have not being doing their jobs properly preparing the NHS for a national emergency.”

But others are more sympathetic to the dilemma facing the government. “I don’t want to see everyone locked behind closed doors but the only way to do anything about it is to stay away from other people,” says 64-year-old Ian Deacy, a building services engineer who is immunosuppressant due to medication taken for rheumatoid arthritis, of the rising transmission rate.

“We should’ve locked down before Christmas, I don’t think the festive mixing was a good idea. I’d sooner miss one Christmas and make it to the next one.”

Ian Deacy with his wife Lisa prior to the pandemic.

Ian Deacy with his wife Lisa prior to the pandemic. Photograph: Guardian Community

Deacy, from Leicester, who has been furloughed since March, says he is also hunkering down and waiting for the jab. “The sooner the injection comes the better. However I’ll be in a position where I’m injected and my wife won’t be and might have to go to the office.”

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Source: The Guardian
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