Covid: Charities call for more support for 500,000 immunocompromised as restrictions ease

Credit: PA

An estimated 500,000 immunocompromised people need extra support from the government, leading health charities have said amid plans to ease Covid restrictions in the coming weeks.

Sixteen organisations have joined forces to urge ministers to do more for those whom the Covid-19 vaccines may give less protection.

With most of England’s Covid rules due to be scrapped on July 19, including the wearing of masks, charities such as Versus Arthritis, Anthony Nolan, Blood Cancer UK and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust said immunocompromised or immunosuppressed people could be negatively impacted.

The charities want better communication from the government and the NHS to inform patients, the wider public and employers about the potentially higher and continued risks that Covid-19 poses to immunocompromised people.

Lockdown rules in England: What's changing from July 19

What has happened to social distancing and the rule of six?

The 'one metre plus' rule has been scrapped entirely, as of July 19 in England. However, some guidance to maintain social distancing in certain situations will remain in place of the legal restrictions.

Social distancing guidance will continue if someone is Covid positive and self-isolating, or in airports, or other ports of entry, to avoid travellers arriving from amber or red-list countries mixing with those from green list areas.

Limits on social contact in England have disappeared, meaning the end of the rule of six indoors and the limit of 30 people for outdoor gatherings.

Do I still need to wear a face mask?

There is now no legal requirements to wear face coverings - but guidance still encourages using masks in some settings, including hospitals, healthcare settings and in crowded enclosed public spaces.

Has the working from home guidance changed?

The guidance on working from home has gone. It's ultimately down to employers to decide whether to keep staff at home or in the office, but the government say employers are able to plan the return of staff to the workplace.

What about weddings and funerals?

The current limits on numbers of people who can attend weddings, funerals and other life events has ended.

What's happening in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

The changes to Covid rules announced by Boris Johnson, only impact England and will not change regulations in Northern Ireland, Wales or Scotland.

The Welsh Government “would like to move together” with other parts of the UK in lifting coronavirus restrictions but will only do so if it is “right for Wales”, health minister Eluned Morgan said on Monday 5 July.

As of July 19, restrictions in Scotland have eased, with all areas of the country moving to level 0. The government is aiming to lift all major restrictions in Scotland by August 9.

In Northern Ireland, some significant restrictions have already been eased including allowing the resumption of live music and the lifting of caps on organised outdoor gatherings.

Back to top

Speaking on behalf of the coalition, Fiona Loud, policy director at Kidney Care UK, said: “Everyone needs to understand how they can continue to protect those that remain vulnerable; any one of those 500,000 people could be your mum, your brother, your colleague, or your best friend.”

They also want employment protection and access to workplace adjustments for immunocompromised people, including the duty to consider working from home wherever possible and flexibility in start and finish times so as to avoid peak-time travel.

Furthermore, the charities are calling for a commitment that research into Covid-19 booster vaccines and any future booster programme considers how best to deliver the maximum level of protection possible to immunocompromised or immunosuppressed people and that they are prioritised for vaccination.

Jane Leahy, who is in remission from blood cancer, says the easing of restrictions is going to make immunocompromised people 'prisoners'

A poll of more than 2,000 members of the public for the charities found that 68% were not aware that people who have certain health conditions, or who take specific medication, are not as protected by both doses of Covid-19 vaccine as effectively as the general public.

Research papers have suggested that those with weakened immune systems do not get as high levels of antibodies from vaccines as fully healthy people.

Ms Loud added: “We of course understand and share the desire to return to something close to normality again, but this cannot be at the expense of thousands of lives.

“The needs and safety of those at risk must be considered as a matter of urgency as the country lifts the measures which were providing some protection for them."