July 19th will not be a “Freedom Day” for individuals with disabilities

“Just the use of the words ‘Freedom Day’ upsets me,” says Natasha Coates, a 26-year-old from Nottinghamshire who had been screened in the pandemic 14 months earlier. “What freedom is there for people like me? If the cases keep increasing, I’ll have to get back into the shield, so I’m losing freedom rather than gaining it. “

Coates has autism and mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS), which causes regular symptoms of anaphylaxis. She was “shocked” by the announcements made during Boris Johnson’s press conference on Monday evening, in which he outlined plans for the country to open up in a fortnight.

The Prime Minister confirmed he plans to repeal social distancing and face mask laws in England on July 19. The instruction to work from home if possible is deleted as well as the “rule of six” in private homes. Nightclubs are reopening and no certification is legally required for major events. Caution with Covid is left to personal discretion.

The message is clear: it’s time to get back to normal. But that is impossible for many of the 14.1 million disabled people in Britain.

People with certain medical conditions cannot get the coronavirus vaccine, and there is growing evidence that the vaccines may not work as well in people with suppressed immune systems. Also, keep in mind that no vaccine is 100% effective and it is possible to get infected even after vaccination.

This is particularly worrying for the country’s disabled community, which is among the hardest hit by the pandemic. Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that six out of ten of all those who died of Covid were people with disabilities.

“I’m scared,” says Coates. “I don’t want to be part of this statistic.”

Natasha Coates

Brogan Taylor, 28, of Northumberland, also fears the restrictions will be lifted and says she will be forced to limit the time outdoors again. Taylor only returned to the supermarket in May for the first time since March 2020 and enjoyed a bit or “normalcy”. But, she says, she won’t feel safe when there are no more face masks.

“It feels like the Hunger Games and we just have to endure it,” says Taylor, who is immunocompromised. “The clinically extremely vulnerable have been forgotten (again) what hurts considering we spent our 2020 staying on our front doors and now it’s like ‘good luck to you’.

“There is a large group of immunocompromised people like me for whom the vaccine is not as effective and no one seems to be taking action or considering us. I feel disposable. “

Brogan Taylor

Politicians have said the end of lockdown restrictions will almost certainly lead to an increase in cases, but on Tuesday new Health Minister Sajid Javid told BBC Breakfast that the country was “breaking new ground” and admitted no one really knows how bad things are going to be. An estimate is 100,000 cases per day.

The uncertainty scares many, including 33-year-old disability activist Shani Dhanda, who has a rare genetic disorder meaning she has a weak immune system and reduced lung capacity.

“Now the world is opening up without restrictions, I have the feeling that I don’t know how or where to go safely,” she says. “I feel like the end of restrictions means freedom for the majority, but not for people who are clinically vulnerable.”

Shani Dhanda

Shani Dhanda

Journalist and disability activist Rachel Charlton-Dailey shares her concerns. “I’ve spent the last year fighting a bit for my own safety and that of other disabled people, while many simply break the rules or treat it like being persecuted for being asked to take care of others . “Years old, from South Tyneside, says.

“I fear that more disabled people will die, and if not, we will all be too afraid to leave our homes. And nobody cares. As long as they can go to the pub. “

Rachel Charlton-Dailey

Rachel Charlton-Dailey

Dr. Hannah Barham-Brown, a 33-year-old GP trainee from Leeds, is “a little bit more anxious” around July 19, but she is double-vaccinated and not immunocompromised.

“I am very concerned about the well-being of my disabled friends who are not so lucky,” she says. “As a doctor, I’m very concerned about the rising number of cases, in addition to having to catch up on a lot of cases that we couldn’t handle during Covid – people may not get as sick, but the NHS (and especially the general practice, in I work) is under incredible pressure and the staff is exhausted. “

Dr.  Hannah Barham-Brown

Dr. Hannah Barham-Brown

Those originally identified as clinically extremely susceptible to the coronavirus have now been offered two vaccines, but this does not apply to all disabled people.

Selina Kaurtee, brand ambassador for Models of Diversity, has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a connective tissue disease with associated heart problems. However, she was not classified as “susceptible” and so only recently received her first vaccine. The 29-year-old from London considers the rhetoric of “Freedom Day” to be insensitive to disabled people, regardless of whether they are clinically at risk or not.

“Lockdown, as the UK public has learned, is an everyday occurrence for many people with disabilities,” she says. “On the positive side, people were more understanding of people with disabilities during the pandemic. They understood what it was like not to be able to leave the house, to have to plan every detail before doing anything, companies have allowed people to work from home, and it has been shown that people don’t absolutely have to be in an office setting to get their work done, but my concern is that once people experience their ‘freedom’ they will forget all these things and nothing will change for the disabled community. “

Selina chew tea

Selina chew tea

Victoria Jenkins, founder of the adaptive apparel line Unhidden, agrees and is also concerned about negative reactions from others for continuing to wear a mask or canceling plans in busy indoor spaces.

“As throughout the pandemic, people with disabilities and the elderly are being forgotten and left behind – we are once again considered acceptable collateral damage to open up the economy,” says the 35-year-old Londoner.

“I fully understand everyone’s eagerness to return to some semblance of normal life, but when it comes to the detriment of others – or as it is more the case, so that money can be made – it makes me feel overall that the breadth The public and companies did not change their attitudes towards this group when it felt like progress was being made. ”

Victoria Jenkins

Victoria Jenkins

Some are hesitant to look forward to the easing of restrictions. Kam Kaur, 37, from Birmingham believes returning to the office once or twice a week will make her feel better and she looks forward to being able to spend time with her family indoors more easily.

“One of the coping mechanisms I’ve used is not forcing myself to accept every invitation,” she says. “I know it’s okay to take the time to readjust yourself.”

But for many of the individuals we spoke to – and two leading disabled charities – it’s hard to see the positive side when an entire community of people was ignored in Monday’s press conference.

Came Kaur

Came Kaur

“Disabled people were forgotten during the pandemic,” says Jessica Leigh, campaign manager at Scope, a disability equality charity.

The government’s decision to lift restrictions leaves some clinically extremely vulnerable or those who have not yet been vaccinated at the mercy of the goodwill of others. It does little to reassure people with disabilities that their needs and the sacrifices they have made are taken into account by the government in these plans.

“People at high risk were not mentioned because they either cannot get the vaccine or because they have conditions where the vaccine is not as effective, such as those who are immunocompromised. Many disabled people will be concerned that plans to lift all restrictions will put their lives at risk. “

There needs to be more clarity about the support that will be offered to people with disabilities when England goes live, added Phillip Anderson, director of politics at the MS Society.

“The prime minister has not made it clear how the most vulnerable will be supported to stay safe,” he says. “It is imperative that the government ensure that vulnerable people are not pressured to stop working from home and that they receive food and medical care without unnecessarily confronting overcrowded shops or hospitals.

“People at extreme clinical risk should also be able to see the most up-to-date risk assessment to give them the much-needed assurance that this next phase is safe for them.”

HuffPost UK has contacted the Department of Health and Welfare for a response to the concerns raised in this article and will update this article as soon as we receive one. For people like Natasha Coates, there is still an unanswered question: Would it really be that hard to adhere to some of the lockdown restrictions?

“I know that wearing a mask can be uncomfortable, but I can assure you that it is not as uncomfortable as the thousands of people grieving for the avoidable death of a loved one,” she says. “As a disabled person, I don’t feel that the government cares about us.”

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