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“Freedom Day” is Anything But for the Disabled and Vulnerable

So, it’s now “Freedom Day”. After watching people attack disability activists for supporting the delay this last month, here it is. I watched last week’s Downing Street briefing from behind my fingers. The Prime Minister stood there ignoring all of the figures. Chris Witty and Patrick Valance flanking him, giving his b*llocks an air of respectability. Both of them appearing to be trying their very hardest not to outright say “I don’t agree with this decision.”

I had hoped we’d get another delay. Living up north, the delta variant is still very much a concern here. But when Hancock was replaced after resigning as health secretary by the only option that would have been worse than bringing back Jeremy Hunt, and Sajid Javid said in one of his earliest statements that we were definitely reopening in July, my heart sank.

It certainly seems to me like an odd move. Numbers are on the rise again. The NHS is gearing itself up for another wave. In June, the much criticised test and trace contacts were extended once again, and recently thousands more contact tracers have been employed – not what should be happening if this pandemic is drawing to a close.

We’re not passing any of the tests, we aren’t following the guidance for threat levels, we’re heading for disaster. 

“Freedom Day”, as those who have a problem with personal space and a bit of fabric over their face have taken to calling it, is a very strange moniker indeed. Yes, you can now go to nightclubs and capacity sports events (although give it another week till we see the numbers from the Wimbledon and Euro finals), and can shove past each other at the bar – but is that really the kind of “Freedom” we need in the face of the frightening statistics?

Are we risking our lives so some creep can rub up against us on a crowded dance floor?

The vulnerable (clinically vulnerable CV and clinically extremely vulnerable CEV) are being advised to avoid those who haven’t had two jabs. Although that finally now doesn’t include those with health conditions who were more or less randomly distributed between priority groups, it does apply to huge amounts of the under 35s, young people with health conditions who aren’t considered vulnerable and children.

As the school holidays are about to start, and you can’t tell who’s been double vaxxed at a glance (other than trying to communicate via Bill Gates’ telepathy network), our only two options are to hang out with pensioners or go back to shielding.

Don’t get me wrong, some of my best grandparents are pensioners, but afternoon lawn bowls followed by a discounted roast dinner at 3pm isn’t exactly my idea of “Freedom.”

Needing to continue working from home as my employer gives word we’re all heading back to the office but having no formal shielding guidance is very much not free.

Not being able to pick up milk and bread and prescriptions, or probably even go for a daily walk without those not double vaxxed walking straight at me is the opposite of freedom.

The government is locking the vulnerable back down, but without the help they extended to the non-vulnerable earlier in the pandemic.

Now I’m not saying we return to countrywide lockdown, at least not until that’s what the science and the government’s own threat level Nando’s meter says, but this step is too far too quickly. And once again it’s us vulnerable thrown under the bus.

To those who tell me I can still continue with mask wearing and social distancing – I plan to, but those are the kinds of measures we all need to be in on.

Masks protect others more than they protect you, they’re a public health measure. I can keep a minimum 1m, ideally 2m, from people as best I can, but given I’m disabled and can’t move away from those who don’t care as quickly as they can move towards me, distancing requires cooperation. And relying on the English public to exercise common sense and cooperation isn’t a reliable measure either (did you see Wembley last week?)

I’ve had both vaccinations, but that doesn’t mean life goes back to normal.

There are those vulnerable people who can’t be vaccinated, or those whose immune responses to vaccines are compromised, so theirs is less effective, but we need to protect them as well. There are also vulnerable children.

Not to mention the vaccine doesn’t stop Covid-19 in its tracks – it is largely effective at protecting against serious illness requiring hospitalisation and death. You can still catch, suffer from, and CRUCIALLY TRANSMIT Covid-19 as a doubly vaxxed person. And that’s where mutations happen. The more Covid-19 cases we allow to rampage through the country, the more of the Greek alphabet we’ll have to learn.

So if you’re also terrified today as you hear calls of “Freedom Day” erupt from those who want to get drunk and rowdy, know that I see you. That I’m with you, and I’m scared too. They may not care anymore, but WE are still in this together. 


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