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By relaxing lockdown for shielders, the government is playing with people's lives

4 75 2101
01.06.2020

The announcement came out of the blue. On Sunday, the government said 2.2 million high-risk “shielders” in England and Wales will be allowed to go outside for the first time from Monday if they feel “comfortable”, either with members of their household, or, if they live alone, to meet one other person. These are people who, for the last 10 weeks, have been told to stay in their homes 24/7, without any break for exercise or fresh air.

This marks a remarkable U-turn from ministers. Previous guidance advised that people with serious underlying health conditions, such as lung disease or low immunity, would need to shield until the end of June. Andthere was no mention of an anticipated change in last week’s announcement easing lockdown for the wider public, nor any advance warning to health professionals. Disability organisations and charities appear to have been taken aback by the move, with the MS Society telling me they were “extremely concerned”.

From the outset of the pandemic, the government’s communication to shielders has been found wanting, to the extent that many didn’t even know how long they were supposed to shield for. The latest update – announced via tweets at 10pm on a Saturday night and trailed in the press – was like moving the goalposts on the quiet. Rather than hearing it first from a government briefing or from their doctor,........

© The Guardian