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Martin Paul Eve

Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London

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Non-vulnerable people perhaps don’t understand why the government advice to shielders is so frightening. I think I can give a flavour though:

  1. Shielding is to be eased on the 1st April. Nobody in the “extremely clinically vulnerable” group – whom the virus would likely kill – will have had their second jab by this point. Infection levels are still around 5,000-6,000 new cases per day, nationwide. This is not low. They further note that “no vaccine is 100% effective and therefore even if you have had both doses, there is still no absolute guarantee that you will not become ill from COVID-19. Therefore, you should continue to take the extra precautions”. People in this group will, in fact, not even have had two doses. There is no data so far on how the vaccine works in the clinically vulnerable. This opening up is being done at a time when the vulnerable are not protected and infection levels are not very low.

  2. The advice says that shielding is eased, but stresses, at all points, how much care shielders still need to take. You should work at home. Unless you can’t work at home. There will be no further financial support to keep people in this group safe.

  3. They write that “your employer is required to take steps to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace and should be able to explain to you the measures they have put in place to keep you safe at work”. Yet for most indoor workplaces, “Covid-secure” is a fiction.

  4. For disabled people/those with long-term conditions, they write: “Please remember that the NHS is open, and we urge you to continue to access all the NHS services that you need.” This is all very well. But I know of 3 people who have contracted the virus in hospital.