Coronavirus: information and updates

Ending free tests means disabled people like me are rolling a dice every time we leave home

The moment the first lockdown was announced, the shutters went down, and disabled people were forgotten. The shielding letters were sent out in their millions, and we were shut off from the rest of the world.

And two years on, we are still being forgotten.

The end of free mass testing this week – as cases are on the rise – leaves disabled people like me having to roll a dice every time we go out.

It shows total disregard for the sacrifices so many of us have made over the past 2 years, and the risks we still face.

The pandemic has impacted us all, and it could take us years to process our collective trauma. But disabled people were hit the hardest.

Between toilet-roll hoarding and Tiger King binging, people who were shielding were left to their own devices. Overnight, the world had changed.

The impact of shielding

Before the pandemic I was an extrovert, fun-loving individual who loved going to different cities within the UK and around the world. I had many plans arranged to meet friends and family and places to go. Shielding changed that. Covid-19 changed that, what had been possible, no longer was.

It took around 3-4 months for the council to ring me and ask me ‘Do you need help with shopping/technology and if I was lonely?’ After this call there was no follow-up, and nobody checked on me.

There was no support. I felt lost, forgotten and alone – I became very insular and was made to feel that leaving my house – my safe bubble – was dangerous by the media.

As someone classed as ‘extremely clinically vulnerable’ this became my new normal during shielding.

Lack of support

Nearly four million people were shielding at one point. Many isolated, many alone. Waving to their family through windows. Struggling to get food deliveries.

Others had vital appointments cancelled. Therapies and operations. Unable to have their care team visit due to worries about contamination. And despite those measures, it’s terrifying that 3 in every 5 people who died of coronavirus were disabled.

Charities repeatedly called on the government to provide support. The disability equality charity Scope, along with 30,000 campaigners, appealed directly to the prime minister to demand urgent action from government. Yet nothing changed.

Once shielding ended, it took a month for me to pluck up the courage to leave the house. I got to edge of my driveway and turned around and came back to the door. My sisters thought I had forgotten something, I felt like I couldn’t leave my ‘safe place’.

After a few days I felt like I was able to leave the house independently and go for a walk around my neighbourhood.

I had my first ever panic attack that day when I saw a family going on their daily walk as I didn’t know how to socially distance, and what the new social etiquettes were; unlike the rest of the population who had already had months to become comfortable with this.

Some of what has happened over the last two years serves as a perfect example of what not to do in a pandemic.

And the clouds haven’t lifted yet.

Free testing must continue

I want the government to wake up. Covid has not gone on holiday!

I want masks to return. I also want the rule that if you test positive, you must self-isolate.

At the very least, those identified as ‘extremely clinically vulnerable’ should be entitled to free testing kits.

Disabled people have been forgotten by the government time and time again and it needs to stop.

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