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End of lockdown: one size fits all approach fails shielders

23 June 2020

Government plans to relax rules for shielders, including many disabled people and people with chronic health conditions, remove almost all of the key protective measures which have been in place since March.

A series of measures designed to reopen society will come into play for shielders from early July with another set in early August seeing the removal of vital practical and financial support, including Statutory Sick Pay for those shielding because of the virus, and food and medicine delivery services.

From 6 July, shielders may meet in groups of six outdoors, including people from different households, while maintaining strict social distancing. The government has also announced that the two metre limit is to be relaxed to one metre from 4 July. Shielders can also form support bubbles with one other household, can visit those homes, stay inside, and stay overnight without socially distancing.

From 1 August, the government has said that shielders who cannot work from home can go back to work if the business is ‘COVID-safe’. It has said that clinically extremely vulnerable children can return to school. It has said shielders can go food shopping, visit places of worship and exercise outdoors while maintaining social distancing.

DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “Many of those shielding have been left stunned and anxious by the government’s decision to stop all protection at the end of July, for the 2.2m people most at risk from Coronavirus. This blanket approach fails to respond to people’s individual medical conditions and personal circumstances. It is a one size fits all approach.”

“At the same time as restrictions on social distancing are being swept away, those at most danger from the virus are being told that they need to get back to work and their lives by 1 August. For many, catching the virus could result in death or a serious diminishing of their quality of life. Why are people being asked to take this risk when we don’t have the evidence of the loosening of restrictions on the R rate, or an effective test, trace and isolate service?

“The government guidance still says that shielders should remain cautious as they are still at risk of severe illness if they catch coronavirus. It says that the advice is to stay at home where possible and, if people do go out, they need to follow strict social distancing.

“At the same time, government is reducing that distancing from two metres to a mere metre.

“It is removing the financial protection of Statutory Sick Pay for those who cannot work from home because of the threat of the virus.

“It is removing the safety of home deliveries for food parcels and medicines.

“Shielding has not been remotely comfortable for most people, but the one thing that it assured was the minimum risk of death from Coronavirus.

“On the 1 August people are being forced to choose between their life and their livelihood. This isn’t right.”

Read the guidance in full here: