Coronavirus: What it's like to be placed in the Government's 'extremely vulnerable' COVID-19 group
By now, we’re all familiar with the concepts of social distancing and self-isolating – and the vital part they play in reducing the spread of coronavirus.
But this week, the Government introduced new “shielding” measures to the mix – and they’re designed to protect the most at risk, those classed as “extremely vulnerable” from coronavirus – and those who could become severely ill if they are infected.
An estimated 1.5million people were to be told by the NHS to “shield” themselves in self-isolation for a minimum of 12 weeks, or until told otherwise.
And at only 29-years-old, I’m one of them.
My name is Debra and I have cyclical neutropenia; a disorder of the white blood cells (neutrophils) which fight bacterial infection.
It’s not an illness that people have generally heard of, but it’s something that could – despite me being a relatively fit and healthy young woman most of the time – bring me to my knees if I pick up the slightest infection.
My husband, who is Type-1 diabetic, is also classed as vulnerable (though not extremely so), so he’s been at home too.
Then on Monday, March 23 I got a text from NHS England, which was to transform my next few weeks.
“We have identified that you’re someone at risk of severe illness if you catch coronavirus,” it said.
“Please remain at home for a minimum of 12 weeks. Home is the safest place for you.
“Staying in will help you stay well, and that will help the NHS too.
“You can open a window, but do not leave your home.”
I, alongside certain cancer patients, people with severe respiratory conditions, those who have received solid organ transplants, people on some immunosuppressive therapies and pregnant women with significant heart disease, must stay in the house, pretty much always, until this is over.
I have two friends – one fighting Lymphoma and another receiving immunosuppression treatment – who are also on the “extremely vulnerable” list.
One of them is a nurse and, despite her own fights, works harder than anyone I’ve ever known.
Looking at them, and at me, you would never know we were any more vulnerable than Joe Public. And that’s the point.
Just because someone looks like they are well, and seems well, doesn’t mean they are.
And that’s why we really need to listen to the advice of our Government and stay at home as much as possible.
Shop for essentials, go for a walk or run and – of course – seek medical help if you need it.
But when you go outside, please keep your distance, wash your hands and do not meet up with anyone you don't live with.
It’s frustrating to feel so restricted, but we do not have a choice if we stand any hope of flattening the COVID-19 curve.