Covid rule changes leave clinically vulnerable as ‘collateral damage’, charities warn

‘Clinically vulnerable people have just become collateral damage in political considerations’, says Charlotte Augst CEO of National Voices

Rebecca Thomas
Health Correspondent
Friday 21 January 2022 11:56
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<p>Commuters have headed back to the office on the first day of work-from-home guidance lifting</p>

Commuters have headed back to the office on the first day of work-from-home guidance lifting

Leading charities have spoken out against the government’s scrapping of Covid-19 measures warning that clinically vulnerable people have been made “collateral damage for political considerations.”

Those representing thousands of clinically vulnerable people have warned the government’s decisions to scrap Covid-19 restrictions leaves people “marginalised” and warned there was a risk to five and 11 year old vulnerable children who are yet to be vaccinated.

The removal of Covid-19 restrictions next week will mean masks are no longer mandatory, the government will no longer ask people to work from home, while Blood Cancer UK has called for the government to do more to support immunocompromised people such as giving them priority testing.

Alzheimer's Society has said it is too early to drop basic measures, such as mask wearing, which help protect vulnerable members of society.

Charlotte Augst, chief executive for the charity National Voices said clinically vulnerable people had now become “collateral damage in political considerations.”

She said: “The pandemic has obviously been difficult for everyone, but it’s been the most difficult for people who are vulnerable to the virus, and some of these people have never really come out of 22 months of lockdowns.

“There are obviously infection control measures that are harmful to society and lockdown is one of them - it causes harm. But there are some infection control measures which are not and which enable people to get on with their lives - wearing masks, improving ventilation.

“Why would we not do this? When we understood that dirty water caused illness, we cleaned up the water. It cannot be a political statement to say we should clean up the air this is just fact-based decision making, but the situation] has now become all about politics.

"The decision to lift all control measures plays to an audience that this government at this particular point, feels they need to appease and it’s no longer to do with what’s right, for getting society safely through this phase of the pandemic and I think that’s very problematic.

"Clinically vulnerable people have just become collateral damage in political considerations. I think that is highly problematic…[The current policy] basically boils down to: you are either lucky or unlucky, which is extraordinary."

There are around 3.7 million people deemed clinically extremely vulnerable to Covid-19, with around 85 per cent of these people asked to shield at the onset of the pandemic, according to the most recent data from the Office of National Statistics.

Clinically Vulnerable Families UK is a group which represents thousands of patients across the country. A spokesperson for the group, said: “Living with Covid-19 seems to include accepting a very high death rate. Despite vaccination, the risk to the vulnerable remains high.”

She said people in the group felt “marginalised” because they don’t see any Freedom Day coming for them and actually feel less safe and said some have felt forced to resign from their jobs.

The spokesperson added: “The vulnerable have a right to work and access education and healthcare without being put at unnecessary risk.”

The group also warned the changes are “premature” because 5 to 11’s prioritised for vaccination are still awaiting their first dose.

Phillip Anderson, head of policy at the MS Society, told The Independent: “It’s outrageous that the government has decided to take away so many protective measures without any assessment of the risks to those who are most vulnerable to Covid-19. This includes some with MS, who may have much less protection from the vaccine due to compromised immune systems.

He added: “Some people who are most vulnerable to Covid-19 will have been left feeling confused, afraid and forgotten, which they have become sadly familiar with over the pandemic.”

James White, head of public affairs at Alzheimer’s Society, pointed out that two thirds of people with dementia had made the difficult decision to shield during the pandemic but were still the worst hit in terms of deaths.

He added: “The number of people getting a formal diagnosis of dementia is dropping and GPs are not required to conduct vital care reviews of people with dementia until April, leaving many anxious and without the support they need.

“With so much vital NHS work still to get back on track, we strongly believe it is too early to drop basic protective measures like mask wearing, which help protect vulnerable members of society.”

A Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We have issued public health advice for people whose immune system means they are at higher risk of serious outcomes from Covid-19

“Those previously considered clinically extremely vulnerable are advised to follow the same guidance as the general public, but consider taking extra precautions to reduce their chance of catching Covid-19.”

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