'I Don't Want To Die': The People Forgotten As Johnson Ends Self-Isolation Early

Clinically extremely vulnerable people say they fear for their lives following the latest Covid announcement.
Boris Johnson announced the change during Prime Minister's Questions.
House of Commons via PA Wire/PA Images
Boris Johnson announced the change during Prime Minister's Questions.

People who are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) to coronavirus have told HuffPost UK they’re in fear of their lives following news that self-isolation rules could be scrapped within weeks.

On Wednesday, Boris Johnson indicated that the legal duty to self-isolate will be lifted. It means people will no longer need to stay home after a positive Covid test.

At Prime Minister’s Questions, he said: “It is my intention to return on the first day after the half-term recess [February 21] to present our strategy for living with Covid.

“Provided the current encouraging trends in the data continue, it is my expectation that we will be able to end the last domestic restrictions – including the legal requirement to self-isolate if you test positive – a full month early.”

Emma Vogelmann, a 27-year-old from Royston, Hertfordshire, says the statement has made her feel “furious”. She began shielding before the official “stay home” order was announced in March 2020 and hasn’t been back to the workplace since. She’s also only attended two social occasions in two years.

“It’s made me feel that my sacrifice for the last two years doesn’t matter and that my life doesn’t matter,” she tells HuffPost UK.

Emma Vogelmann feels "forgotten".
Emma Vogelmann feels "forgotten".

Vogelmann has spinal muscular atrophy, a muscle wasting condition that makes all the muscles (including the respiratory muscles) weak.

She contracted Swine Flu while living in America in 2009 and due to the damage, she now uses a ventilator through a tracheostomy to breathe. Understandably, she’s been terrified by the spread of another virus.

I think it really sends a message that the government does not care about clinically extremely vulnerable people like myself,” she says of the proposed change to isolation rules. “In this pandemic, we’ve felt forgotten and that our needs and our affairs don’t matter, but this just drives that message home.”

Brogan Taylor, 28, from Northumberland, says the announcement felt “like a punch to the gut”.

“The isolation and testing were all the protection we had left, now we are effectively to become an ‘unavoidable death’ in their statistics,” she says. “When we were advised to shield and have no human contact there were a lot less cases than there are now, so I am struggling to understand this decision.”

Taylor is immunocompromised, meaning the vaccines aren’t as effective for her and she’s at higher risk of serious disease from Covid. She says the end of restrictions do not take people like her into account.

“I am a 28-year-old woman, I work full time. I love my life, my loved ones, my dogs… I’m in love, I have hopes and dreams for the future,” she says. “I don’t want to die.”

Brogan Taylor says she still has hopes for the future.
Brogan Taylor
Brogan Taylor says she still has hopes for the future.

Other people who are vulnerable to Covid have reacted to the news on social media, with many saying the end of all restrictions will destroy their quality of life.

The PM’s official spokesman clarified in a briefing with journalists that Downing Street would not recommend people go to work if they test positive for Covid.

“In the same way that someone with flu, we wouldn’t recommend they go to work, we would never recommend anyone goes to work when they have an infectious disease,” he said.

But without a firm law in place, people who are vulnerable to Covid are concerned that carers could come into their homes, even after a positive test.

Vogelmann says her regular care team of five has been thoughtful and responsible throughout the pandemic, always notifying her of any risks, but the change in law will put her in a difficult position if one of her carers tests positive.

“Technically, they don’t have to not come to work. I would have to still pay them as if they did work if I didn’t want them to come in, which means I’m left without care, because I can’t pay for two people for the same shift,” she explains.

“Or it means they come in with Covid, so it puts me in an absolutely impossible situation.”

The disability equality charity Scope has urged the government not to “forget about disabled people in the rush to live with Covid”. It claims some disabled people could be potentially placed in “deadly” situations due to the law change.

“Nobody should be forced to gamble with their lives, and we need the government to explain to disabled people how they’ll be safe when this decision is introduced,” James Taylor, director of strategy at the charity tells HuffPost.

“It’s only a month ago we were advised to work from home, so for many this will feel like a rapid change in approach to adjust to. Since the Omicron variant struck, some disabled people have felt increasingly like they have been left to fend for themselves.”

Of course, this news will not only impact people diagnosed as CEV, but also their loved ones or housemates.

A recent study into the impact of Covid restrictions found that those with existing health conditions were overall “less able to cope”. It also found that “people who lived with and cared for vulnerable individuals were also fearful of leaving the house and felt restricted and guilty for not being able to support others.”

HuffPost UK contacted the Department of Health and Social Care regarding the concerns raised. A spokesperson said: “We have issued public health advice for people whose immune system means they are at higher risk of serious outcomes from Covid-19. This advice remains in place.

“Those previously considered clinically extremely vulnerable are advised to follow the same guidance as the general public, but consider taking extra precautions to reduce their chance of catching Covid-19.

“Vaccines are the best way we can protect ourselves from the virus and we continue to urge everyone who can to get boosted Now.”

However, this provides little reassurance for people like Taylor, and more than a million other clinically vulnerable people like her.

“The guidance for CEV when shielding ended was that we should minimise contact with other people, public places, try to only spend time with the vaccinated and ask people to take Covid tests before they spend time with us,” she says. “Without isolation and as a result, testing, how are we supposed to go about our lives?”