Covid-19 has changed the safety of disabled people on an alarmingly global scale. New figures suggested by the BBC state that almost two-thirds of coronavirus-related deaths in the UK have been within the disabled community, which has raised calls for a public inquiry.
Health secretary Matt Hancock should know that being vulnerable, disabled and living with a possible major risk of contracting Covid is not a choice, we are disabled by environmental change and nature.
I’m a disabled man with a tracheostomy, an artificial plastic tube that allows me to breath and speak. I was born six months premature, causing me to have an underdeveloped airway impacting my trachea, which, like a domino effect, impacts my respiratory system. Meaning my respiratory system is more exposed to airborne viruses, including coronavirus. There is no contingency plan in place for people with my condition, and I’m scared I may die during the pandemic.
Not only do we have six months of a global pandemic under our belts, we’ve also learned that world leaders knew about the Covid-19 in December 2019, when it was discovered in Wuhan, China. It’s also now widely-known that coronavirus has been around for decades, making it even more unnerving that there isn’t a viable prevention method or known cure.
Social distancing and wearing a face mask minimises risk but it’s impossible to enforce public behaviour all hours of the day.
We are being told to return to work, as nations around the world enter a second lockdown phase, and some predict a second wave on UK shores this Autumn. Meanwhile, as plans are underway for 10 per cent of staff to return to my workplace. I’m concerned by going back to work I may be in contact with potential carriers.
I’m left with the decision to keep safe and live a long life or return to work with a chance my life will be cut short, just to keep a slow growing economy going. But is this really more important than protecting citizens from a deadly disease?
In May, we were told to stay inside to save lives and control the virus. It’s mind-boggling, half a year later, that the government has done so little in terms of forward planning for the most vulnerable in society.
The disabled community has been utterly ignored during the pandemic, in fact, MPs debated whether to relinquish all responsibility for the most vulnerable in society under “emergency law”. In March, under schedule 11 of the emergency law, MP’s discussed the idea of freeing local authorities of their duties bound by the Care Act 2014.
If this were to happen, councils could refuse care to elderly and disabled people, unless the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) made a legal claim over concerns surrounding this protected characteristic.
The inconsiderate and unplanned approach surrounding disabled people’s safety makes those of us affected wonder if the Care Act is of any value to the government at all. I feel voiceless about my legal rights being ripped to pieces, when I need them the most – not only keep safe but to stay alive.
England has a shocking total of live coronavirus cases: 315,284, plus a death toll of 36,959. These figures have really shaken the disability community to its core. I, and others in similar circumstances, feel lost, scared, and wonder which of us could be next to hit by Covid-19.
Nana Marfo – aka Mr Unique Voice – is a freelance disabled advocate and writer
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