Why shielders are asking, should I go outside or not?

The Government has recently announced that people who are shielding during the Coronavirus outbreak, due to health conditions, can begin to ease their lockdowns, with short outdoor walks and meeting people from outside their household whilst doing so.

However, this has caused some disquiet amongst those shielding and amongst some medical practitioners. Last week, our own trustees issued a warning about being complacent. We should all make our own minds up, based on the risks involved and, therefore, we all need to keep up to date with the Government’s advice, but also draw ininformation from other sources: if you are shielding, these might include your GP or any specialists you see on a regular basis.

Below are a some reactions to the situation we spotted in the national media:

The science hasn’t changed and nor has the risk posed (Guardian column)

The science hasn’t changed and nor has the risk posed, so it is hard to understand why the guidance for high-risk people has. Now that the wider public are out and about more – and increasingly not following physical distancing rules – this is actually the time it feels more dangerous for people with underlying health conditions to step outside.

Sage advisers have warned a second wave is likely due to Boris Johnson easing the lockdown too early.  Only two days ago, England’s deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, insisted that the country was at a “very dangerous moment”. If some experts deem it too soon for healthy people, how are high-risk groups supposed to feel safe? Read the full column here.

Poor Treatment for Those Shielding

Last week some people shielding received text messages saying that they were no longer on the medically vulnerable list. People were understandably shocked and confused. The advice is to contact your GP or specialist before acting on the text.

The Prime Minister spoke on 28 May of the need for people to continue shielding and promised more information soon. A group of charities has written to government saying that people shielding need more guidance and additional help and support, as lockdown eases.

Read the Guardian article.

Read the letter written to government.

Shielders face dilemma: Should I go outside or not? (From the BBC news website)

People across England and Wales with health conditions that make them vulnerable to coronavirus were allowed to spend time outdoors on Monday for the first time in 10 weeks. Some welcomed the chance to finally leave their homes, while others opted to stay indoors. Under the new rules, people who have been “shielding” are allowed outside once a day with members of their household, or with someone from another household while maintaining social distancing if they live alone.

More than two million people in England have been strictly isolating at home since March. They include cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and people with severe respiratory conditions. A surprise announcement relaxing the shielding advice was made over the weekend. Family doctors were told about the new measures only hours before they were made public, a senior official with the British Medical Association said, and the Royal College of GPs advised extreme caution, saying it was not a green light allowing people to return to ways of life pre-coronavirus.

Who should be shielding?
The government said it had engaged with leading health bodies in making the decision, and that it had relaxed the guidelines because levels of coronavirus transmission were significantly lower than when lockdown was first introduced.

But among some of those now free to leave their homes, there is a dilemma: should they take the risk?

‘There are still too many people dying each day’
I’ve got severe asthma. I’m not going out – I don’t feel comfortable with it and my parents really don’t feel comfortable with it. I’m not willing to do anything that will worry my mum and dad more than they’re already worried.

I’ve not had a chance to speak to my doctor yet – the last time I spoke to my consultant was earlier on in the shielding process and he told me not to go outside. I asked him about going in the garden and he said no more than an hour a day. I don’t see how it’s changed that much.

Image copyright Supplied Image caption Rachael Paget: “It’s very anxiety-inducing, the idea of going back outside”
I did wonder if I was overreacting but then my MP tweeted that her mum is shielding and she’s advising her to stay in her house and not follow this new rule of going out for a walk.

It’s difficult because people are starting to talk about this “new normal” and starting again and getting on with their lives, and I’m still at home.

I think I’ll go outside when my consultant says it’s OK and when the infection rate drops a bit more. There are still too many people dying each day and too many infections each day for me to feel comfortable. The house has become very much a safe haven. It’s very anxiety-inducing, the idea of going back outside.

Rachael Paget, 35

‘I’ve been craving a proper walk’
I went out at about five in the morning into central Brighton. It was very surreal, very 28 Days Later – shops were boarded up, obviously no-one was around because it was so early. It was a very odd experience to actually feel some wind. There was a lone guy playing bongos and it felt like he was putting on a concert just for me.

I had a heart transplant when I was 16 so I’m on immunosuppressants. It had felt like we were a bit forgotten so when the announcement happened at the weekend it was a relief.

Image copyright Joshua Murray Image caption Joshua Murray: “For now, I’m going to carry on cautiously”
I live in a flat and we have a small balcony but it’s kind of just stick your head out levels of space. This was the first time I’d really stretched my legs and had a proper walk, which I’ve been craving all this time.

I picked 05:00 because while I’m happy to get to go out I only really want to do it when there aren’t other people bustling around. I wore a mask as well.

I’m going to give it a bit of time before venturing out in the middle of the day.

For now, I’m going to carry on cautiously.

Joshua Murray, 32

‘Anything less than complete confidence isn’t going to cut it’
I take immunosuppressants for a condition called myositis and have interstitial lung disease. For a long time it felt like people like me had been forgotten. Then we heard the news coming out which should have been great – I’ve been wanting to leave my house since the start – but the problem was the timing of the message. You can’t divorce an announcement like that from everything else that’s been happening recently.

We’ve got schools going back and the announcement about trying to get retail back on its feet. I live near a park and I can see people aren’t socially distancing. Lots of prominent scientific voices are saying we’re opening up too early.

And then at the same time you get an announcement saying the most vulnerable people in society are allowed to get a bit more freedom. It’s a really confusing message

When you’re at the sharp end of this and you feel that stepping out of your front door is a gamble then anything less than complete clarity and confidence in the government and people trying to keep you safe just isn’t going to cut it.

For that reason, I’m not planning to step outside my front door for three weeks. I figure that’s enough time to see the impact of the easing of restrictions this week.

I think people like me who are living with the most dangerous realities of this have all become our own experts. I trust my judgment more than I trust the government’s judgment at the moment.

Nick Lockey, 40

‘I’ve missed walking the dog’
I have chronic asthma. At about seven in the evening we got the dog and walked about three miles to go and sit in the garden of a friend.

I’ve been out to the doctors a couple of times but it was my first time going out to do something other than that. I’ve got a pretty large garden so it’s not been as traumatic for me as people in the cities.

I was a bit anxious but I suppose that’s fairly normal. I had a mask in my pocket just in case.

I took the dog out again on Tuesday morning – it’s something I’ve really missed. My wife’s been having to walk the dog up to now so she’s very pleased.

Karl Straw, 55

‘I’m afraid of what will happen if I get it’
I have scleroderma and pulmonary arterial hypertension. I can’t see the point in them easing the rules because how can it suddenly be OK to go out and be near other people. People aren’t staying two metres apart. It doesn’t suddenly go away so I think we’re still in the same dangerous situation we were three months ago.

We got a letter at the beginning of all this saying to stay in shielding because of how dangerous it is for people like me to go out and get the disease but we haven’t heard anything from our consultant since.

Things have to open up at some point and we have to go back to normal but I’m afraid of what will happen if I get it. I feel it’s unfair for us all to go out as if it’s normal when there are people still suffering from it and I’m worried about the NHS – it’s not really protecting them.

I think we should have been slower to relax the rules.

Karen Waller, 60

‘There’s a whole different way of life’
I’ve got a lung condition that I’ve had for about seven years, but it doesn’t really affect my life so it was a shock when I got the message that I had to shield.

I was really in two minds about going out on Monday and I was really cautious. I just went for a walk for 15 or 20 minutes.

Image copyright Glyn Shemwell Image caption Glyn Shemwell: “I think it’s possibly affected my communication skills”
It was a really surreal experience – no one expects to not go out for 10 weeks. I bumped into someone I know and had a brief conversation and I suddenly realised it was my first proper face-to-face contact with someone in 10 weeks. I was just talking gibberish – I think it’s possibly affected my communication skills.

I realised there’s a whole different way of life that I hadn’t seen or witnessed – everything was brand new for me.

Glyn Shemwell, 49