Millions of vulnerable people shielding during the coronavirus outbreak must get more clarity about when their lives can start to return to normal as lockdown across the UK eases, a group of charities has demanded.
Dozens of organisations representing those deemed “clinically vulnerable” and facing harsher rules have urged the government to “be clearer with communication” about announcements affecting them during the COVID-19 pandemic..
They said as restrictions are loosened across the four nations, the around 2.2 million people shielding will find the restrictions stopping them from leaving the house, seeing family or going to work “harder to bear”.
“Messaging to this group is currently confused,” wrote the bosses of charities including Diabetes UK, the British Lung Foundation and Macmillan Cancer Support in an open letter to ministers.
“Some people have received texts advising them to shield until the end of July, and others have been advised to continue to shield indefinitely by their clinician.
“It is imperative that clear guidance to those who are shielding is issued as soon as possible.”
Current advice from the UK government is that people shielding should “stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact to protect yourself” until the end of June.
Those who fall into the group include people with specific cancers, rare diseases that significantly increase the risk of infection, those on some immunosuppressive therapies and pregnant women with significant heart disease.
It used to include anybody aged over 70 regardless of medical condition, but that advice has now been withdrawn.
The letter from charities on Friday calls for “urgent and direct communication from government with those who are vulnerable” explaining what they should expect when the shielding deadline expires at the end of next month.
Otherwise people will be left “confused and anxious” as lockdown restrictions are eased, they warn.
At the daily Downing Street coronavirus briefing on Thursday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “At this stage, I am afraid that those who have been asked to shield themselves should continue to do so.”
He added he is “looking carefully at how we can make your life easier” and that “we want to say more on that soon”.
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