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Vulnerable groups are right to be nervous about the end of shielding | James Moore

Vulnerable groups are right to be nervous about the end of shielding | James Moore
The virus can still find a way around the vaccines, and now there are no legal protections for the disabled, those with long term health conditions and the immunosuppressed

le gouvernement's shielding policy, which kept millions of those most vulnerable to Covid in their homes, should have wrapped with a bang. A joyous declaration. You’re ok. No need to worry anymore. We don’t even need to hold it in reserve because we’ve got this beat.

Funnily enough, pourtant, there was none of that. Au lieu, the announcement of the end was sneaked out under the cover of a government reshuffle. So the nation wasn’t paying attention to much of anything beyond sighing with relief that the education and future of its children was no longer to be in the hands of Gavin Williamson, a man who might struggle to find employment as a dog walker if he fails to retain his seat at the next election.

“People previously considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable will not be advised to shield again,” the Department of Health and Social Care declared. Or should that be, the Department of Health and Social Care whispered.

“This decision is based on there being far more information available on the virus and what makes individuals more or less vulnerable, the success of the Covid-19 vaccination programme and the emergence of proven treatments, such as dexamethasone and tocilizumab, to support improved outcomes in clinical care pathways.”

Well phew! Perhaps we don’t need to worry after all?

But if that were the case, why sneak the release out on what was a very good day to bury bad or controversial news. The latter this certainly was. As to the former, well that rather depends on how many people die, doesn’t it?

If disabled gens, those with long term health conditions, the immunosuppressed et al are now as safe as houses, don’t need to hide away in them (so long as they’re vaccinated) and won’t in future, there should have been no need for such cynicism.

Unless, bien sûr, this could be another instance of the government playing poker with people’s lives?

Because surely, surely it wasn’t a case of ministers simply saying “screw ‘em if it all goes horribly wrong, who cares about the disabled anyway, Rishi’ll be happy if we off a few more of them because it’ll cut the welfare bill”. Surely, it wasn’t that?

The virus is still spreading. There are more than 8,000 people in hospital, and that number is rising. le scientists are worried, and with winter and peak season for respiratory illness looming large, they’re right to be.

It is true that the majority of hospitalisations and deaths are now among the unvaccinated.

The available vaccins are miracles of modern medical science, and I don’t think we say that often enough in the face of the wall of bulls**t propaganda belched forth from the cynical and the crazy on their favourite social media platforms.

They are very effective at preventing hospitalisation and death. A un moment donné, those of us who spent time in the shielding group will, I imagine, be trotting down to our local vaccination centre for a third shot. One of those all-singing, all-dancing comprehensive cover with a courtesy car if you get in a prang insurance policies.

But even they sometimes go wrong.

The virus can still find a way around the vaccines, and it has proved to be pretty damn good at shuffling its nucleotide deck chairs with a view to mucking up the best-laid plans of mice and man, let alone the slapdash, half-arsed policy making favoured by the current administration.

I have spoken to Scope, Leonard Cheshire Disability and Disability Rights UK about this. They are all unhappy. No wonder. The people they represent feel very nervous. They wonder how they will manage without the legal protections that came with shielding. They feel abandoned by their government through the course of the pandemic, and with good reason. The behaviour of that government could be described as callous at best.

Amid all the talk about a winter plan B, circuit breakers, the potential imposition of some kind of lockdown lite if things start to get hot during the chill winter months, it seems incomprehensible that the government would formally jettison its plans to protect the nation’s most vulnerable citizens.

Its media managers recognised this, which is why they sought to brush it under the carpet.

The homes of shielders may be open but fear stalks them all the same.