'We’ve Been Forgotten': 5-Day Isolation Leaves Clinically Vulnerable Fearing For Their Lives

·4-min read
(Photo: Justin Paget via Getty Images)
(Photo: Justin Paget via Getty Images)

“When I see some people say things like, ‘Oh my God, I have to isolate for 10 days’, I think, ‘Well, I’ve been isolating for over 800 days and I dare someone to try it,’” says Juilet Coffer, who has sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease that impacts the lungs. “All the new Covid changes don’t seem to take people like me into consideration.”

Coffer, who’s in her fifties and lives in Basingstoke, believes the new five-day isolation rule is “dangerous” for those who are clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) to coronavirus. She’s not the only one with such concerns.

Yet from today, Monday 17 January, the self-isolation period in England will be cut down to five full days if people can show two negative lateral flow tests. In December, self-isolation was cut from 10 days to seven if you received negative results on day six and seven.

Sajid Javid told MPs in the House of Commons that UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) data showed “that around two-thirds of positive cases are no longer infectious by the end of day five”.

He said the UK is now the “freest in Europe” and was “leading the world in how to live with Covid”. But was the health secretary thinking about vulnerable people when he said this?

Coffer has been shielding since the start of the pandemic.If you start cutting the isolation period”, she says, “it’s only going to make those who are vulnerable even more vulnerable”.

She continues: “Every time they change the Covid restrictions like social distancing, wearing masks and self-isolations periods, it makes life more dangerous for us.”

Rachel Charlton-Dailey, a 32-year old writer from South Shields, also believes the five-day isolation rule is going to put more disabled people at risk.

She was shielding from March 2020 until August, then shielded again in December 2020 until the end of January. “I’m pretty much shielding again now and have been since December last year. I only go out to walk my dog and for groceries twice a week,” she says.

“I think the five-day rule isn’t enough, the virus can take much longer to get out of the system and it’s not going to help ease the spread. This is just another way the government have put the economy before lives in the pandemic.”

Although the official shielding period has ended – along with any government support for those with chronic illnesses or disabilities – many people classed as CEV have taken it upon themselves to stay home amid such high case numbers.

“We won’t know who will be safe and as always we’ll feel the brunt of it but will have the least support,” Charlton-Dailey adds.

Jameisha Prescod, a 26-year old film-maker, says being chronically ill in a pandemic is anxiety inducing. She caught Covid over Christmas but worried about what it would do to her.

“You don’t know what’s going to happen. What’s this going to do to my body? Am I going to get long Covid? Like, what’s it’s going to do?,” she adds.

“Five days is a short time to isolate. People with compromised immune systems are going to be walking around in fear that someone who is Covid-positive who is fresh out of isolation on day five could infect them.”

Even though Prescod thinks self-isolation should be extended, she also understands that some people can’t isolate for longer – especially if they’re pressured to return to the workplace by their employer or can’t access sick pay.

“I think we really underestimate the number of people that have compromised immune system,” she adds, “so I just say as much as possible, please try to isolate longer than five days.”

Coffer thinks that the government have treated people who are chronically ill “terribly” during the pandemic.

“We’ve been treated like second class citizens from the beginning,” she says. “It’s like they said ’let’s just stick them away in their houses and we’ll help them out a little bit.

“It’s like we’ve been forgotten and the thing is, we all want to go back to normal, but that doesn’t happen at the same speed for everyone and that’s a problem.”

Charlton-Dailey shares her view: “The government had disregarded disabled people during the pandemic and essentially left them to die. They’ve shown us what they really think.”

Prescod had hope in the government at first, but as the pandemic progressed she believes the focus has shifted from looking after people to getting people back to work.

“It just seems that we’ve been forgotten and that the priority is the economy rather than disabled lives,” she says.

When asked what she would say to someone who wants to leave isolation on day five, Charlton-Dailey says: “Please do the full seven or 10 days isolation, five is not enough. Think of others around you who are more vulnerable.”

Coffer thinks people should spare a thought for people like her. “If I chose to go out that day and interact with someone with Covid that could really cost me,” she says. “That one action can literally kill someone else.”

HuffPost UK has contacted the Department of Health and Social Care in relation to the concerns raised by interviewees and will update this article if we receive a response.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.


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