Why is there so much more talk about pub opening times than about shielding? | Frances Ryan

The government has been failing disabled people since the Covid pandemic began. Now we are being forgotten again

As fears rise over the spread of coronavirus in Britain, it is remarkable how little ministers are talking about the millions of people who are most at risk. Boris Johnson addressed the nation yesterday about the fear of a second wave but made no substantive mention of people with underlying health conditions who are particularly vulnerable to the virus. Instead, there was a vague reference to avoiding “simply lock[ing] up the elderly and vulnerable”, with nothing on the extra protective measures they might take. Apparently, there was time to talk about when you can get a pint in a pub, but not how to keep disabled people safe. Around 14 million people in the UK are now under some level of local restriction, and yet there has been no word on what this means for people who were told to shield earlier in the year, other than a quick line in the House of Commons that shielding is “not necessary” for those living outside local lockdown areas. This is despite there now being more estimated current coronavirus cases than when the shielding programme was paused in August.

Now there are new restrictions for the general public, should I start shielding again if I’m high risk? Does it depend on where I live in the country? Ministers say I should now work at home “if I can”, but what if I can’t? Coronavirus cases in England have almost doubled in the space of a week, and yet people with severe asthma or low immunity are still being expected to risk their lives and go into work if working from home is not possible.

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