Woman who 'hasn't left house for 800 days' fears she'll never get out when Covid rules lift
What few remaining Covid rules are left and how will their relaxation impact those in clinically vulnerable groups? ITV News Health Editor Emily Morgan explains
A clinically extremely vulnerable woman who hasn't left her house for more than 800 days has told ITV News she may "never get out alive" after the government revealed plans to lift all remaining Covid restrictions early.
Juliet Coffer has an autoimmune disease, called sarcoidosis, and relies on oxygen at all times. She said the vaccine has had little effect on her and because she only has 20% of gas transfer left in her lungs, she is unlikely to survive coronavirus if she caught it.
Boris Johnson told the Commons earlier on Wednesday he expects to scrap the legal requirement to isolate if a person tests positive for the virus in England in as little as two weeks.
The Prime Minister's announcement has left Juliet worried she will never leave her home again for the fear of unknowingly coming into contact with someone infected with the virus.
"There's really no respect for the clinically vulnerable in that decision"
She told ITV News: "Tears came into my eyes. It was like someone had killed hope of having a future, of having a future outside.
"I can only describe it as feeling like a cigarette butt that they've thrown on the floor, they've put their heel on it, they've just trampled it out.
"There's really no respect for the clinically vulnerable in that decision and how we can live our lives... It's soul destroying."
Until recently, Juliet and her husband had "no contact with the outside world".
Before shielding was a term known to the public, Juliet had decided during the winter of 2019 to stay at home for several months after suffering a series of chest infections.
It means her time in lockdown is now creeping upwards of 800 days.
"I may never get out this house alive"
Juliet and her husband would not allow anyone into their home and got by with deliveries.
They have only recently got "brave enough" to allow people into their home as her disease has deteriorated further and they have had to bring in carers.
But with the lifting of Covid rules, Juliet is now concerned her carers could pick up the virus and bring it into her house.
"That means I may not even be able to have carers in. It effects everything that we do," she added.
"Having that person in my house in my condition is a life and death choice. It's literally life and death."
She said if her carer happens to stand next to someone who has Covid, "that one split second" could change her "whole existence".
"I may never get out this house alive," she added.
Juliet said her life is "on the clock" due to her life-limiting illness and she wants to enjoy simple freedoms like sitting in a park. But she feels "completely forgotten" and believes the clinically vulnerable are treated as an "after thought".
"Why is my life less valuable?"
She said: "Why is my life any less valuable than theirs? Why can't I have a life back?
"Wearing something on your face or staying in your house when you've got a highly, highly contagious disease is a small price to pay for society to look after the most vulnerable within it.
"There's always been an attitude that it's okay they would die soon anyway".
All Covid restrictions had been due to expire on March 24, but the prime minister told MPs he expects they can end a month sooner if the data continues to be encouraging.
He said he would present the government's "Living With Covid" strategy when the Commons returns from its recess on February 21.
Following the announcement, experts have voiced concern about those with underlying conditions who are still vulnerable to the virus.
Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, told ITV News: "We do need to be aware of the risks to vulnerable people who have not reacted well to vaccines".
According to the Department of Health and Social Care, the shielding programme for the clinically extremely vulnerable ended in England on September 15, 2021.
The DHSC previously said: "This is because we know a lot more about the virus and what makes someone more or less vulnerable to COVID-19, the vaccine continues to be successfully rolled out, and treatments are becoming available."
It advises the clinically extremely vulnerable to get their booster jab and sets out specific guidance for those in the group.