High-risk people who have spent more than two months shielding from coronavirus say they feel “left behind and forgotten about”, after being told their isolation may continue for “several more months”.
Charities supporting the more than two million people currently shielding from Covid-19 said Boris Johnson’s announcement that lockdown measures would be relaxed for the rest of the population have made the most vulnerable “deeply concerned” about the impact an extended period at home will have on their mental and physical health.
The Prime Minister was unable to give a timeframe on when lockdown measures for vulnerable people would be lifted. And they were dealt a further blow on Friday when Environment Secretary George Eustice warned that those shielding from coronavirus may have to continue to do so “for several more months”.
Nearly 50 charity bosses have written an open letter to the Government calling for the urgent need to publish clear, consistent advice on shielding measures to ensure such people protect themselves and can access support as lockdown eases.
Steven McIntosh, Macmillan Cancer Support policy director, said the latest announcement was “incredibly bleak and distressing” for those in the high-risk category.
He told the PA news agency: “It’s simply not acceptable that they just get a message that they are going to have to continue to do this for some time longer, they need to understand what that means and what support is available.
“Macmillan is hearing from people who feel left behind and forgotten, who got a letter at the start of March telling them to stay in total lockdown, not to leave the house, not to see anyone, to protect themselves.
“They feel there has been a huge lack of communication to help them understand what lockdown means for them.”
And he warned the impact on the mental health of vulnerable people was particularly worrying.
He said: “All of society has been struggling with the impact of lockdown, but for someone with a severe medical condition… already having spent three months in total lockdown without leaving the house, and now spending further months with a lot of uncertainty about what that means for them, that is incredibly bleak and distressing.
“Many of them feel that they are seeing the days of their lives ticking away without any certainty as to when they are going to be able to see their loved ones, leave their house, or live their lives to the fullest.”
The open letter, sent to the Cabinet Office on Friday, calls for clear guidance from the Government on what to do when the current 12-week lockdown period for the most vulnerable ends, with a strategy in place to protect them from the virus both mentally and physically when they are allowed to leave their homes.