Amber looking out at Arthur's seat from Edinburgh Castle

Reminder: You CAN still socially distance after “freedom” day, and CEV people would really appreciate it if you could do that.

So, as of July 19th, social distancing will no longer be required in some parts of the U.K, and a lot of people are really, really happy about that, which, I’m sorry, WHAT? 

No, seriously, why are you all so excited to be able to get close to strangers? I mean, I understand it when it comes to friends and family members (Well, sort of.), but, personally, I’d be happy to keep social distancing forever. And ever

I love being able to stand in a queue at the supermarket and not feel someone breathing down the back of my neck. 

It’s been a relief to turn up to a (legal) gathering, and not have to wonder whether we’re going to be doing kisses or just hugs, one cheek or two? Elbow bumps for ever.

I’ve been able to start using elevators again, now that I know 143 people aren’t going to try to cram themselves in beside me, and nothing you can say is going to convince me there’s a disadvantage to this. Nothing.

(While I’m here, I may as well just ‘fess up that I don’t hate face masks, either. Sure, they can get hot and sweaty on a summer’s day, but, thanks to them, there are people in the world who have never seen my Resting Bitch Face, and that can only be a good thing as far as I’m concerned.) 

For the introverts and the just plain anti-social amongst us, the extra SPACE that social distancing has given us has been a – literal – breath of fresh air. 

But now it’s ending (in some parts of the country, at least), and that’s a problem: not just for those of us who have turned social awkwardness into an art form, but, on a much more serious note, for those who are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) to Covid-19, and who now feel a bit like they’re being thrown to the wolves. 

CEV people have no way of knowing how effective the vaccine will be for them, or how much protection it will give them. After 18 months of being told they need to avoid all possible exposure to Covid-19, however – even to the point of quite literally being advised to lock themselves into a single room of their homes, and not leave it under any circumstances – they’re now being urged to return to work: only without facemasks, without social distancing measures in place, and without any idea of whether the people they’re mixing with are vaccinated or not. 

I just… I can’t see any possible flaw in this plan, can you? 

Amber spinning in a white dress on the Edinburgh Castle esplanade

Oh no, wait: I CAN see the flaw! The flaw is that, while wearing a mask and remaining two metres away from people we don’t know is really quite easy for most of us*, having those precautions taken away is going to make life really quite difficult for those who are vulnerable. Or actually impossible, in some cases.)

(*IMPORTANT CAVEAT: I realise some people are unable to wear face masks, so let the record show that these comments are obviously not directed at them, but at those of us for whom it’s an inconvenience at most…)

I mean, just think about it for a minute. 

Imagine you have a condition that makes you particularly vulnerable to Covid-19. You spent large parts of last year shielding yourself from it. You got regular letters and texts from the government, kindly reminding you that, if you get the virus, you will most likely die from it, and it’ll be your own stupid fault, because they DID warn you never to leave your house, right?

So you’re terrified. Even if you’re not normally the anxious type, all of these letters and scare stories are probably going to push you over the edge and convince you that Covid-19 would be a death sentence for you: because that’s exactly what they’re designed to do. 

Then you get the vaccine. THANK GOD, you think: I can finally start to do “normal” things again! Not CRAZY things, like going on holiday, or throwing a house party, say, but just ordinary, everyday things, like going out for coffee, or meeting a friend for a walk. What a time to be alive, seriously. 

BUT NO. 

As it turns out, you will not be doing any of those things.

Because now there’s a variant. And another variant. And a variant-of-the-variant. And, actually, this seems like a perfect time to drop social distancing, stop wearing masks, and get everyone back to the office, doesn’t it? So that’s what happens. Boris comes on TV and tells you to go back to work, but to also avoid indoor spaces and unvaccinated people if you’re vulnerable: advice which is completely and utterly nonsensical, because how do you know who’s vaccinated and who isn’t? How do you avoid indoor spaces if you work indoors? What happens if you can’t work from home, but you can’t go to work either, because there’s now absolutely no protection from the virus there? 

No, seriously: HOW?

Lacking in logic though it may be, however, this is the situation vulnerable people (in England, at least) will face from July 19th – or ‘Freedom Day”, as it’s been dubbed. It’s not really “freedom” for the vulnerable, though, is it? Actually, it’s more like them being expected to put themselves at greater risk, just so the rest of us don’t have to wear facemasks or stand 2 metres away from each other – and doesn’t it make you proud to thinks that’s the kind of society we have now?

Amber looking out at Arthur's Seat from Edinburgh Castle Esplanade

“But, Amber,” I hear you say, “What do you expect us to do? We can’t lock down forever, just because some people are vulnerable! Life must go on! We can’t sacrifice our children’s education, the economy, and everyone’s mental health, just to protect the vulnerable!”

All of which is absolutely true, and not even remotely what anyone is suggesting – or certainly no one I know, anyway. 

Look, I’ve HATED every lockdown we’ve had. I never want to do another one, and I’d have a hard time supporting one if it was suggested. I want to get back to normality just as much as anyone else does, and while I obviously can’t speak for the CEV community, I know many of them feel exactly the same.

The thing is, CEV people are also part of our society. They’re not some strange subset of it, with no feelings, and a magical ability to lock themselves away for years and just feel grateful to be alive. Oh, and, despite what social media might lead you to believe, they’re not all elderly and infirm, either: although, that’s kind of a moot point, really, because, even if they were, that wouldn’t make them “disposable”, would it?

No, CEV people have jobs and families. They have friends, and hobbies, and lives that they’re desperate to get back to, just like the rest of us, and they’re pretty sick of the assumption that they should sacrifice ALL of those things, just so the rest of don’t have to make ANY sacrifices at all.

Because it doesn’t actually have to be like that, does it? It’s not an “all or nothing” situation: a choice between lockdown or recklessness. The end of restrictions doesn’t have to mean the end of empathy or consideration for others, and just because we CAN do certain things again, it doesn’t mean we HAVE TO. 

So, no one is asking you to go back into lockdown, or make huge sacrifices to protect the vulnerable. All they’re asking is that you keep them in the back of your mind as “Freedom Day” approaches. Wear a mask if you can, and particularly if you know you might come into contact with someone vulnerable. Don’t stand unnecessarily close to people you don’t know. Keep up with the handwashing and the sanitiser. Isolate if you have symptoms, or come into contact with a positive case. And that’s it, really. That’s really all it takes for everyone – including CEV people – to be able to get on with their lives as best they can, while still looking out for each other. 

It doesn’t really seem like a lot to ask, does it? 

COMMENTS
  • Myra Boyle

    REPLY

    I’m going to carry on wearing a face mask indoors and socially distance because I care about other people and their anxieties.

    July 15, 2021
  • Kelly Glen

    REPLY

    I couldn’t agree more with this. These people were told to be extra careful in order to protect themselves but now it seems the government have just decided they have had enough of it and are saying get on with life and forget all the sacrifices they have made over this past year or more. It is not going to just suddenly all disappear on July 19th we all still need to be extra vigilant and protect ourselves and all the rest of the country as well. We have all had to put our lives on hold and now I think it needs to be done a lot more slowly than it is. So sorry for the long rant but it just makes me angry what is now being asked of us.

    July 15, 2021
  • Louise McDonagh

    REPLY

    I will be wearing my mask still and socially distancing, frankly, like you, I’d be happy to social distance for ever, I don’t like strangers in my personal space.

    July 15, 2021
  • Lucy

    REPLY

    I haven’t related to a post as much as I have with this one in a long time, I’m CEV and I’m wary about people not wearing face masks or social distancing on freedom day, it makes me anxious and as you said, we don’t know how effective the vaccine is at protecting us as of yet! I’m going to keep wearing my mask for the foreseeable and I won’t be afraid to tell someone to keep their distance from me if I need to! x

    Lucy | http://www.lucymary.co.uk

    July 15, 2021
  • Nikki Smith

    REPLY

    I got the flu in 2007. I’m still recovering in 2021. I got the normal flu. My body didn’t recover properly and I developed m.e or chronic fatigue syndrome. I went from teaching at a college to bedbound For 2 weeks and housebound for 2 years. you can’t get enough energy from food or sleep. You energy on Monday has to last you the rest of the week as you’re like a car and can’t afford to top up the petrol. There’s no cure, and limited treatment. you feel abandoned by the NHS. M.E starts with a virus like flu, stomach flu or glandular fever. But my point is covid does the same it’s called long covid. And it effects young people hundreds of kids and young people yep teens and twenty yr olds. You may survive covid but your life can be change for the worst. Just because you’re not in the vulnerable list now does not mean that it won’t happen to you. Being young does not make you invincible. Most of the people with me/ CFS I’ve met are teens and in their 20s. If you don’t want to be vaccinated please wear a mask and keep your distance it’s the least you can do.

    July 15, 2021
  • Fi

    REPLY

    I read yesterday that when the Netherlands ditched all restrictions cases went up by 500% in a week. There will be a U turn on masks etc shortly.

    July 16, 2021
  • Erin

    REPLY

    I support this message. I’m a mostly healthy and fully vaccinated extrovert and quite frankly I’ve liked not getting even a small cold for the past 16 months. I am fine with masks and distancing forever honestly.

    July 16, 2021
  • Rachel

    REPLY

    I agree so much with all of this. I’m young, healthy and I’ve had my first vaccine (second dose in a few weeks) but I’m more than happy to keep wearing a mask and distancing from people. Lifting all the restrictions with how things are currently seems insane. It also feels as though the English government have completely forgotten/overlooked people who are vulnerable. ‘Freedom Day’ can’t really be freedom day until everyone is free to go about their lives and feel safe.

    July 17, 2021
  • Danielle

    REPLY

    I will certainly be taking things slow and doing things gradually!

    Danielle | thereluctantblogger.co.uk

    July 17, 2021
  • Jenna

    REPLY

    Please don’t put so much faith in face coverings – for your own sake.

    And don’t underestimate how miserable they make a lot of others.

    July 18, 2021
  • Rosie Petch

    REPLY

    I was gratified to see every passenger on the bus this morning wearing a mask – I had feared I’d be the odd one out. I’m more than happy to continue wearing a mask – they come in handy. I saw an old boyfriend the other day and he didn’t notice me at all thanks to my mask! Winner x

    July 19, 2021
  • dublinerInDeutschland

    REPLY

    Yeah I totally agree. I understand people are really keen for life to “get back to normal” but right now with all the different variants and until herd immunity is reached, it just seems way too soon.

    August 4, 2021
  • Alex G.

    REPLY

    Hello,
    I would just like to say I have multiple autoimmune conditions which severely compromise my immune system. I get sick with EVERYTHING and when I get sick I am down for weeks (Not to mention usually having to go on antibiotics and steroids). However, I am in full support of people’s freedom to choose whatever they feel comfortable with doing. I have friends who are vaccinated and friends who are unvaccinated. I also have friends who mask and friends who don’t mask. Neither bother me and I refuse to let either affect my outlook nor my friendships.
    I personally so look forward to the hustle and bustle of normal life again whether or not that means I get sick more often… even though I have gotten sick about the same amount since the start of social distancing and masking.
    One more thing, If our reasons for keeping masks around are as shallow as being able to have a “snarky or unpleasant” look on our face without others noticing, then I would say you keep wearing your mask but let’s stop “virtual signaling” to others about what they should do based upon our insecurity and fears of sickness.
    Live a full life not a fearful life!

    – Alex G.

    September 3, 2021
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