England’s ‘freedom day’ to be day of fear for elderly people, charities warn

Vulnerable and immunocompromised people anxious about 19 July end to Covid rules

Boris Johnson’s “freedom day” will be a day of fear for elderly and vulnerable people and those with compromised or suppressed immune systems, for whom the efficacy of vaccines is much reduced, charities have warned.

Citing the statement by the new health secretary, Sajid Javid, that Covid infections could surge to a record 100,000 a day in a few weeks after all social distancing and mask-wearing regulations are removed in England, Blood Cancer UK has said that 19 July “will be the day that it feels like freedoms are being taken away from” many people.

“People with blood cancer are unlikely to have got as much protection from the vaccines as people without cancer,” the charity said in a tweet. “Lots of you have also told us it’s been great to start getting back to normal over the last couple of months.

“The reason many of you have felt able to do this is that the people around you have been keeping their distance and wearing masks. We’re appealing to the public to continue to be considerate because there’s no way of knowing if the person next to you is immunocompromised.”

Jan Shortt, the general secretary of the National Pensioners’ Convention, said that the 50 deaths a day being projected by many health experts as a direct result of the ending of restrictions were likely to be among the UK’s oldest and most vulnerable.

“The ‘free-for-all’ depicted in the information from government sources is making older people (and potentially others in society) anxious about going out into crowds and being targeted because they are either wearing a mask or not,” she said.

Eve, 34
Eve, 34. Photograph: Handout

But it is not only older people who are scared and angry. Eve, who is 34 and unable to work because of disabilities, said the relaxation of the rules will “mean I’m rendered housebound by those who choose not to wear masks”.

“The so-called freedom day is, for us, the exact opposite,” she said. “Shame on those who made this decision and those who choose, going forward, not to wear a mask. You are part of why I will not be able to go outside, just as I was starting to enjoy a bit of actual freedom again – which, for me, has been that I now sometimes go into a shop. That’s all I’ve had. And now it is being taken away. I feel hopeless.”

Cathy Bass, a 39-year-old office worker in Lincolnshire, said the younger generation felt they had been sold out by the government’s decision.

“As a younger person who’s only recently had a first dose of the vaccine, I feel a bit betrayed by the decision,” she said. “We’ve sacrificed so much during the pandemic mostly for the sake of protecting the older population, yet apparently we can’t keep the small step of wearing a mask in certain places for just three more months while we wait for all of the adult population to have had the chance to be fully vaccinated and to be as safe as it’s possible to be from coronavirus, including the effects of Long Covid.

“Not to mention keeping unvaccinated under-18s safe - and helping stop the development of new variants,” she added.

Ellie from Leigh in Greater Manchester is 38 and lives with her partner, both of whom are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable.

“My partner and I have had our lives on hold for the past 18 months,” she said. “We’re just at the point where we can start to get out a little more and start mixing with friends and family. The idea that masks will no longer be mandatory terrifies me. I feel that as a disabled and vulnerable woman I’ll be excluded more and more from being able to participate in normal life.

“If people will not be wearing masks then I don’t want to return to supermarket shopping with my carer, to going out for lunch with my mum or attending events where lots of people will be present,” she added.

Jacquie Rogers, a 64-year-old author from Malvern said the relaxation in the rules will “condemn” her to having to avoid all places where others congregate.

The author, who is immunosuppressed and has been shielding since the start of the pandemic, said she “relies on others to protect me”.

Emerging data from John Hopkins and other research centres suggest the efficacy of the vaccine is very low for people like me compared with others of my age,” she said. “I suspect my options outdoors will contract, too, with restrictions lifting, meaning even fewer opportunity for me to socialise or even shop.”


Amelia Hill

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
NHS Covid app could be used to prove status and access venues in England
Measures being considered would see pubs and restaurants checking if customers have been vaccinated or recently tested

Aubrey Allegretti and Jessica Elgot

24, Feb, 2021 @6:00 AM

Article image
Care homes urge easing of rules on overseas workers to tackle staffing crisis
More than 70,000 care workers may have to leave sector in November if they are not fully vaccinated

Robert Booth Social affairs correspondent

13, Sep, 2021 @4:52 PM

Article image
Ministers launch TV ad campaign to tackle care worker shortage
Adverts to be shown on ITV, Channel 4 and Sky amid warnings over impact of mandatory Covid jabs law

Robert Booth Social affairs correspondent

03, Nov, 2021 @11:19 AM

Article image
Government accused of 'jumping gun' on England care home visits
Care home bosses say visitors hoping to hug loved ones are being turned away due to lack of tests

Robert Booth Social affairs correspondent

02, Dec, 2020 @2:21 PM

Article image
Why ministers stuck to 19 July for lifting England’s Covid rules
Analysis: a further delay in a bid to contain the rapid rise in the infection rate would present its own problems

Heather Stewart Political editor

06, Jul, 2021 @8:48 PM

Article image
Mandatory Covid jabs for care workers in England unworkable, warn bosses
Warning care homes may be legally liable for enforcing policy while some staff say they would rather quit

Robert Booth Social affairs correspondent

17, Jun, 2021 @2:52 PM

Article image
End to Covid rules for England ‘leaves 3.8m vulnerable people feeling abandoned’
Charities warn that shift on 19 July to personal choice on virus precautions instilling fear in many most at risk

Natalie Grover Science correspondent

13, Jul, 2021 @6:12 PM

Article image
Some Tories fear second U-turn over plan for Covid vaccine passports in England
Sajid Javid may be forced to revive unpopular policy in another U-turn if NHS comes under severe pressure in winter

Aubrey Allegretti

12, Sep, 2021 @6:38 PM

Article image
Sajid Javid ‘leaning towards’ mandatory Covid jab for NHS staff
Health secretary yet to make final decision on whether to bring NHS in line with care home sector in England

Sarah Marsh

25, Oct, 2021 @8:15 AM

Article image
Boris Johnson to revoke Covid rules on 19 July
PM will make England most unrestricted country in Europe despite saying cases could soar to 50,000 before date is reached

Jessica Elgot and Ian Sample

05, Jul, 2021 @7:43 PM