Normal life was torn from Sarah Hemmings a year before anyone else. In early 2019, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that can affect the brain and spinal cord and make everyday tasks difficult.
Then the pandemic struck.
Hemmings received treatment for MS and had two young children with her husband. She resigned from teaching at a local elementary school and almost never left home. She is now one of 3.8 million people across the UK who are considered clinically extremely susceptible to Covid-19 and who until recently were advised to shield themselves from the outside world.
The government hopes that the effectiveness and high acceptance of vaccines will protect them once most of the legal restrictions in England are lifted next week, although it is said that people like Hemmings should consider going to stores at “quieter times of the day” .
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization has meanwhile proposed that the group should be given variant booster vaccinations from September onwards.
With the UK reporting more than 42,000 daily infections, 50 percent more than two weeks ago, the prospect of lifting the remaining coronavirus rules has been a mixture of anger and concern.
“The leadership is terrifying,” she says on the phone from the family home in Norfolk. “There are hand sanitizer pumps everywhere, but Covid is an airborne virus.”
Hemmings is most concerned about the lifting of the mask requirement in public places. Although she was stabbed twice and considered relatively safe by the government since she ended shielding counseling on April 1, a recent test showed she had not developed antibodies. Going out for coffee with friends or visiting a busy shop will feel too risky again.
“That doesn’t sound like a lot, but those freedoms are a big part of your world when you’re stuck at home,” says Hemmings. “Masks should definitely be worn, and proper ventilation should be discussed a lot more.
“[The clinically vulnerable] forgotten, ”she adds. Politicians say everyone should “learn to live with Covid deaths” but “I feel like they’re talking about me. It’s really worrying. “
Hemmings finds it hard to believe that a group of millions can be “ignored” so easily, claiming Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Sajid Javid are “naive” about the risks the coronavirus still poses.
“We’re a diverse group,” she says. “There are clinically vulnerable people with all sorts of conditions, jobs, and all sorts of unique situations, but the guidelines don’t take any of those into account.”
She has postponed her plan to apply for another apprenticeship position in September and is unsure of what the future will bring, given the impending isolation phase.
“On ‘Freedom Day’, I will do tests before treatment and a few days after I will be given an infusion of immunosuppressants,” she says. “That is probably the main emotion for the next phase.”
This is the 11th article in a series for the blog which studies the impact of the pandemic on people and businesses around the world