Clinically vulnerable ‘must not be left behind’ after easing of Covid measures

·4 min read

Clinically vulnerable people say the Government should not “leave millions of people behind” as plan B measures are relaxed across England.

Mandatory face coverings in shops and on public transport, the use of Covid passes at venues like nightclubs, and work-from-home guidance were all scrapped on Thursday.

Tom Pearman, based in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, has an immune deficiency and said heading into a world without strict measures requires a “leap of faith”.

“Some people will get a lot more freedom but there’ll be several million people who actually get less freedom,” Mr Pearman, 44, told the PA news agency.

“Everyone wants to get living – but some people have to do it with a leap of faith.

“It is frustrating and it is anxiety-inducing… you don’t have to leave millions of people behind.”

Tom Pearman and family
Immunocompromised Tom Pearman and his family have made ‘many compromises’ to keep him safe (Tom Pearman)

Mr Pearman spent two weeks in London’s Royal Free Hospital after he caught Covid in September 2021 and received what he described as a “game-changing” antibody treatment.

“I have an immune deficiency which means I don’t produce a certain antibody,” the father-of-two explained.

“This means I didn’t produce a response to the vaccine.”

“I know that the treatment that I had… solved the problem for me. If I had that in advance as a prophylactic treatment, that would keep me out of hospital.”

Mr Pearman described his time spent in hospital as a “really lonely” experience.

“It’s really hard if you don’t know where it ends… I think the mental (part) is tough – the constant battle of, ‘What happens next? Will I ever get rid of this?’

“My kids (were) massively affected. It created anxiety. We’ve missed out on a huge amount and my kids are missing a huge amount. It creates a massive fear for them when their dad gets taken to hospital.”

Mr Pearman said the Government could tread common ground by bringing in “soft measures” to help protect those at a higher risk of serious illness or death from Covid.

“I think masks are one of those, I (wear a) mask when I go in to a shop – not because it necessarily protects me from others, but I think it’s the right thing to do and I think it sends the right message,” he said.

Mr Pearman said the easing of restrictions will be a case of “taking the plunge” for him and his family.

He added: “I think that’s the concern this week: are we being driven by the reasons, or is it being done to be the first country out of lockdown?

“It’s really important people don’t get left behind.”

Tom Pearman and family
Tom Pearman called being treated in hospital for Covid a ‘lonely experience’ (Tom Pearman/PA)

Lorna Fillingham, 50, is a full-time carer for her daughter Emily-May, who has physical and mental disabilities.

The 11-year-old also lives with Baraitser-Winter syndrome, which affects the development of the brain and makes her extremely vulnerable to Covid.

“Her life is as valuable as anybody else’s. She has a life worth living,” Ms Fillingham, who is based in Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire, told PA.

“But she’s still in a category where she cannot get a vaccine, so I think we will be sticking to outdoor trips.”

Ms Fillingham and her family have been shielding since the country’s first lockdown. She said she calls ahead to attractions to check they are not too busy before taking her children.

Lorna Fillingham and Emily-May
Lorna Fillingham is a full-time carer for her 11-year-old daughter, Emily-May (Lorna Fillingham/PA)

“For us, trips to museums and things meant a lot for our mental health. It’s been a way of continuing their education,” she said.

“But I feel like we’ve been forgotten in a big way and not just by the Government – the general public are still unaware that clinically vulnerable people exist.”

The chief executive of charity Immunodeficiency UK, which aims to give guidance and support to those who are immunocompromised, said the community “feels left behind and abandoned”.

Susan Walsh told PA: “The Government doesn’t see them as a top priority for protection.

“Our helpline has gone super bonkers because of the anxiety out there.

“The Government talks about equality… this is where it would count – they need to give more thought and take action.”

Public health guidance urging people to wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces if coming into contact with strangers will remain in place, the Government said.

Advice for face coverings in classrooms for both staff and pupils has also been axed.

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