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COVID-19: Shielding restrictions eased for the most vulnerable

Written by on 1 April 2021

Under the new government guidance, Chloe Ball-Hopkins will no longer have to shield from coronavirus.

Chloe was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at a young age which means her muscles are weak and damaged.

She has spent the last year shielding with her grandparents and for her “it’s been one big long lockdown”.

She has spent the last year shielding with her grandparents and for her Image: Chloe has muscular dystrophy

But from today, the 24-year-old can finally take a small step back towards normality.

She said: “I feel like I’ve woken up on Christmas Day, it’s that one day of the year where you just enjoy being with friends and family, and I’m going to enjoy that for a few days but going forwards it’s going to take time.

“I’m not going to feel comfortable overnight in all environments and that’s okay. I don’t think I can go from shielding for this long to feeling okay overnight. It’s going to take time.”

Those on the shielded patient list were asked to stay at home as much as possible from 5 January, and in February another 1.7 million people in England were added to the list.

Of those shielding, 90% of have now had their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Stock photo ID:1221463264  Upload date:April 29, 2020  Categories:Stock Photos | Virus Image: More than 90% of people on the shielded patient list have had their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine

“I’m one of the rare ones,” said Chloe. “A lot of people with my condition are still dubious to go out, particularly ahead of having a second vaccine.

“But with where I live and the people around me, I’m fortunate that a lot of them understand my situation and have either been shielders or vulnerable themselves so are happy to meet in a big open space.”

But Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Dr Jenny Harries warned that people who have been shielding still need to be careful.

She said: “We need to be observing the distancing measures and be extra careful, keep washing our hands. Do things outside instead of inside… it’s being more attentive.

“For the time being it’s an end to shielding… but we’re obviously always keeping an eye out for what’s happening to the virus, we’re looking out for new variants and watching how the vaccine programme is going.

“It’s really important that the people who have been shielding know that we still are able to contact them in the future should we need to give them any particular specialist advice.”

People are still advised to work from home but for the minority who can’t, Dr Harries urges them to have discussions with their employers.

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She added: “Individuals need to feel confident that their workplace is COVID secure.

“The manager and the employee both are able to talk through their concerns and the manager can explain what interventions have been put in place to keep them safe.”