/Allowed to leave home – but choosing to stay indoors

Allowed to leave home – but choosing to stay indoors

Nick LockeyImage copyright
Nick Lockey

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Nick Lockey: “People like me have all become our own experts”

People across England and Wales with health conditions that make them particularly vulnerable to coronavirus were allowed to spend time outdoors on Monday for the first time in 10 weeks. But some opted to stay at home.

Under the new rules, people who have been “shielding” are allowed outside once a day with members of their household, or with someone from another household while maintaining social distancing if they live alone.

More than two million people in England have been strictly isolating at home since March. They include cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and people with severe respiratory conditions.

A surprise announcement relaxing the shielding advice was made over the weekend. Family doctors were told about the new measures only hours before they were made public, a senior official with the British Medical Association said, and the Royal College of GPs advised extreme caution, saying it was not a green light allowing people to return to ways of life pre-coronavirus.

The government said it had engaged with leading health bodies in making the decision, and that it had done so because levels of coronavirus transmission were significantly lower than when lockdown was first introduced.

“That’s why we are focused on finding the right balance between continuing to protect those at the greatest clinical risk, whilst easing restrictions on their daily lives to make the difficult situation more bearable – particularly enabling the contact with loved ones they and we all seek,” Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said.

But amid concerns over their health, some have decided to remain indoors. We spoke to three of those people.

‘There are still too many people dying each day’

I’ve got severe asthma. I’m not going out – I don’t feel comfortable with it and my parents really don’t feel comfortable with it. I’m not willing to do anything that will worry my mum and dad more than they’re already worried.

I’ve not had a chance to speak to my doctor yet – the last time I spoke to my consultant was earlier on in the shielding process and he told me not to go outside. I asked him about going in the garden and he said no more than an hour a day. I don’t see how it’s changed that much.

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Rachael Paget: “It’s very anxiety-inducing, the idea of going back outside”

I did wonder if I was overreacting but then my MP tweeted that her mum is shielding and she’s advising her to stay in her house and not follow this new rule of going out for a walk.

It’s difficult because people are starting to talk about this “new normal” and starting again and getting on with their lives, and I’m still at home.

I think I’ll go outside when my consultant says it’s OK and when the infection rate drops a bit more. There are still too many people dying each day and too many infections each day for me to feel comfortable. The house has become very much a safe haven. It’s very anxiety-inducing, the idea of going back outside.

Rachael Paget, 35

‘Anything less than complete confidence isn’t going to cut it’

I take immunosuppressants for a condition called myositis and have interstitial lung disease. For a long time it felt like people like me had been forgotten. Then we heard the news coming out which should have been great – I’ve been wanting to leave my house since the start – but the problem was the timing of the message. You can’t divorce an announcement like that from everything else that’s been happening recently.

We’ve got schools going back and the announcement about trying to get retail back on its feet. I live near a park and I can see people aren’t socially distancing. Lots of prominent scientific voices are saying we’re opening up too early.

And then at the same time you get an announcement saying the most vulnerable people in society are allowed to get a bit more freedom. It’s a really confusing message.

When you’re at the sharp end of this and you feel that stepping out of your front door is a gamble then anything less than complete clarity and confidence in the government and people trying to keep you safe just isn’t going to cut it.

For that reason, I’m not planning to step outside my front door for three weeks. I figure that’s enough time to see the impact of the easing of restrictions this week.

I think people like me who are living with the most dangerous realities of this have all become our own experts. I trust my judgment more than I trust the government’s judgment at the moment.

Nick Lockey, 40

‘I’m afraid of what will happen if I get it’

I have scleroderma and pulmonary arterial hypertension. I can’t see the point in them easing the rules because how can it suddenly be OK to go out and be near other people. People aren’t staying two metres apart. It doesn’t suddenly go away so I think we’re still in the same dangerous situation we were three months ago.

We got a letter at the beginning of all this saying to stay in shielding because of how dangerous it is for people like me to go out and get the disease but we haven’t heard anything from our consultant since.

Things have to open up at some point and we have to go back to normal but I’m afraid of what will happen if I get it. I feel it’s unfair for us all to go out as if it’s normal when there are people still suffering from it and I’m worried about the NHS – it’s not really protecting them.

I think we should have been slower to relax the rules.

Karen Waller, 60

Interviews edited for length and clarity.

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