'We've been abandoned' - Half of clinically extremely vulnerable people in England continue to shield as lockdown lifts

Most of us have crawled to the end of lockdown this week, emerging on Monday to hug family and get back inside the warmth of a pub, but for some people there is just no end in sight.

Half of clinically extremely vulnerable people in England said they are continuing to shield despite the government saying they no longer need to.

And this comes despite two-thirds of the respondents from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey, conducted between April 26 and May 1, reporting that they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

Blood cancer sufferer Tania Dineen Parish says clinically extremely vulnerable people 'have been abandoned' by the government

Tania Dineen Parish has been shielding since January 2020 when she first started treatment for blood cancer.

The precautions she has to take are extreme.

While her immune system is extremely compromised, catching coronavirus would in all likelihood be fatal.

Tania says she still feels 'like a prisoner' and she still 'feels forgotten' as lockdown lifts

She told me she lives in fear even of her own husband. They have to eat, sit and sleep in separate rooms.

Life for three-year-old Dylan Jeffs who has leukaemia is similarly constrained.

While he's bravely adapting to a six-month programme of chemotherapy, lumbar punctures and bone marrow transplants, he was playing delightedly with his diggers in the sand pit when we visited (at a strict distance).

His mother, Rachael Jeffs, 32, said the family is still missing out as lockdown lifts.

'I'm not celebrating that we can go to a pub or a football match. That's not even anything we're considering'

The unlocking of the rest of the country has made things even tougher for his parents.

He can now see other children playing in the park and wonder why he can't join in. There will be no joyful family reunions for them.

Some 3.7 million people in England had to shield during the last lockdown.

Of those, there are thought to be around half a million who have compromised immune systems either because of the illness they have, or the treatment they are having for it, including blood cancers, kidney and bone marrow transplants.

While the vaccines are offering the majority of us a route out of Covid's grip, for those patients, the vaccine is known to be much less effective.

Rachael says she is taking precautions for her three-year-old son with leukaemia in case Covid cases in the country rise again

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson has responded to concerns by clinically extremely vulnerable people: “We recognise that for many people who were previously asked to shield, this continues to be a worrying time.

“We have ensured those most at risk are prioritised for vaccination, with 65% of clinically extremely vulnerable people already having received both doses, and continue to make phenomenal progress in vaccinating all adults.

“While shielding restrictions were lifted on April 1, we continue to recommend clinically extremely vulnerable people take extra precautions to protect themselves to minimise any risk of exposure to Covid-19.”

The government ended the official advice to shield last month.

It's now up to the vulnerable to decide themselves what is safe.

For some, like Tania and Dylan's family, there is no choice.

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