The normal life was taken from Sarah Hemmings a year before it was taken from everyone. In early 2019, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that can interfere with the brain and spinal cord, making daily tasks difficult.
Then the pandemic struck.
Undergoing treatment for MS and caring for two young children with her husband, Hemmings retired from teaching at a local elementary school and has hardly ever left home. She is now one of 3.8 million people across the UK deemed clinically extremely vulnerable to Covid-19, advised until recently to “protect” themselves from the outside world.
The government is hoping the vaccine’s efficacy and high uptake will protect them once most of England’s legal restrictions are removed next week, though it says people like Hemmings should consider heading to stores at “quieter times of the day”.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization, meanwhile, suggested giving variant booster shots to the group starting in September.
Still, with the UK reporting more than 42,000 infections daily, up 50% from a fortnight ago, the prospect of dropping the remaining coronavirus rules fills Hemmings with a mixture of anger. and apprehension.
“The advice is appalling,” she said over 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 requirement to wear masks in public places. Although double hit and considered relatively safe by the government since it ended protective advice on April 1, a recent test showed she had not developed any antibodies. Going for coffee with friends or visiting a bustling store will again seem too risky.
“It doesn’t sound like much, but these freedoms are an integral part of your world when you’re stuck at home,” says Hemmings. “The masks must absolutely be kept and good ventilation must be mentioned much more.
“[The clinically vulnerable] have been forgotten, ”she adds. Politicians say everyone should ‘learn to live with the Covid dead’ but ‘I feel like they are talking about me. It is really unsettling. “
Hemmings finds it hard to believe that a group of millions of people can be “ignored” so easily, saying Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Sajid Javid are “naive” about the risks the coronavirus still poses.
“We are a diverse group,” she says. “There are clinically vulnerable people with all kinds of conditions, jobs, all kinds of unique situations, but the advice ignores all of that.”
She postponed her plans to apply for another teaching position in September and, with another period of isolation looming, she doesn’t know what the future holds.
“On ‘freedom day’ I will do some pre-treatment tests and a few days after that I will receive an infusion of immunosuppressants,” she says. “Fear is probably the main emotion of the next phase.”
This is the 11th article of a series for the blog which explores the effects of the pandemic on people and businesses around the world