Vulnerable people in the UK have called on the Government to change their “one-size-fits-all” approach towards those shielding amid the coronavirus outbreak.
There are 2.2 million people shielding in England alone, each with differing medical vulnerabilities, but the Government’s blanket approach has meant they were all advised to isolate themselves for months.
Angela Steatham has chronic lymphocytic leukaemia and has been shielding at home in Powis, North Wales.
Due to fears over the impact Covid-19 could have on her, she can often spend an hour cleaning shopping and post that arrives at her home with disinfectant.
Ms Steatham also showers and washes her clothes after arriving home from medical appointments – the only time she leaves the house.
“The advice has been absolutely shocking,” the 56-year-old leadership coach told the PA news agency.
“It feels like we’re being treated as collateral damage – ‘just get all those people hidden away’.
“The most vulnerable have been the most ignored… there’s so much anger in the community.”
Instead of telling us we're extraordinarily vulnerable, I want them to tell us what we can do to help ourselvesDebbie, a shielder from London
“It’s too one-size-fits-all,” said 58-year-old Debbie from London, who has been shielding after having a kidney transplant.
“Instead of telling us we’re extraordinarily vulnerable, I want them to tell us what we can do to help ourselves.”
Scotland announced on Thursday it will try to “move away from a blanket approach for the shielding group” as it moved into phase two of its exit from lockdown.
The Scottish Government said the move would allow the public to make “informed decisions” based on “individual conditions and the changing infection rate in their area”.
Ms Steatham believes individuals across the country should now be given a medical assessment to determine their personal condition and the risks they face.
Another shielder, Will from Derbyshire, was unsure why he was asked to shield but believes it was because he had treatment for the blood cancer Non-Hodgkin lymphoma over the winter.
“I received three shielding letters, none of them named a medical condition why I had been flagged,” the 39-year-old said.
“The blanket letters gave people the impression that they could drop down dead if they were unfortunate enough to get Covid and protecting themselves indoors was the only way they were going to stay alive.”
Shielders in England and Wales were advised at the start of June they could now leave their home for exercise with their household while social-distancing.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said new guidance on shielding would be released “very soon” following reports that it is to be axed at the end of July.
Sophie Wong, who has been quarantined at home with her husband in Essex due to an autoimmune condition and immune-suppressing medication, said the advice change was “very sudden” and had created confusion.
“At the beginning of lockdown I did feel extremely anxious but it settled down as I got used to the situation,” the 31-year-old told PA.
“But now as the uncertainty over the shielding measures grows, I’m feeling very anxious again.”
Debbie from London added it would “make the world of difference” if there was an hour a day specifically for shielders to allow them to leave the house and “not be walked past by joggers and walkers and other people who don’t take distancing seriously”.
Many of those shielding said they questioned whether to trust Government advice on the relaxing of lockdown rules, preferring to stay quarantined until there is a Covid-19 vaccine.
“You sort of get a Stockholm syndrome – not that Boris Johnson is my kidnapper – but you get to a point after over three months… you think ‘you know what I can cope, I’d rather just stay inside shielding’,” said Ms Steatham.
“Painting, reading, cooking has kept me sane.”