Here are my thoughts on the rather haphazardly reported news this morning:
Our lockdown has been extreme. So the news that from tomorrow we might be OK to think about going out for a walk once a day is in many ways welcome. As is the idea that the risk of catching the disease may have gone down from 1 in 40 to 1 in 1000.
But, the manner in which the news came out especially on the BBC was worrying, confusing, and rather unclear. A lot of us are by now after months of social isolation rather scared about ever going out again, in fact we may even have a full case of agoraphobia. And now that many ordinary people are going out it does seem that even some outdoor environments are going to remain unsafe. I suspect that myself and the people I am shielding with will initially simply go for a drive to somewhere nearby we think will be remote, and only get out if it seems deserted. These things are huge and not to be treated lightly.
Like many others I felt I could not safely shield at home with a wife who is a key worker. This level of sacrifice for many of us to protect our health has come with much emotional distress at times. Therefore it is so important that as Gemma Peters, CEO of Blood Cancer UK said on Sky News this afternoon, communication needs to be done in such a way that we can feel safe as well as be safe.
I am sure we will all be tuning in eagerly to the Number 10 Press conference at 4pm today for more clarity. I wonder if they will answer other questions that remain unclear. I have posed a couple o of them below in a question I have submitted for consideration to be used at the conference. I include a Facebook and Twitter version.
At one point many of us thought we were not allowed to even go into our gardens. Then it was clarified that shielding advice in the UK is just that – advice. So it was a bit infuriating to see a BBC News headline infantilising us this morning announcing we are now “allowed” outside from tomorrow. This is not house arrest thank you very much BBC, no matter how much it has felt like it at times!
Those at extremely high risk from COVID19 who live in the UK have been staying at home for ten weeks now. And despite the confusion in the BBC article this has already been extended till the end of June and we have been warned it may well go on much longer perhaps until there is a vaccine, the earliest timeframe for which is September.
This shielding effort is to protect our lives and help prevent the NHS from becoming over-run by those who are likely to get very sick if they catch this new coronavirus. It has not been easy. The shielding list was intended to include perhaps the highest risk group of all: everyone who has ever been diagnosed with a blood cancer.
There has been a lot of confusion about shielding throughout the last ten weeks, caused in part by careless initial phrasing of the paragraph from the Government’s guidance. But despite some local doctors and nurses views to the contrary the central intent was clear:
Official UK Government Shielding Group Guidelines
Solid organ transplant recipients.
People with specific cancers:
people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy
people with lung cancer who are undergoing radical radiotherapy
people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment [Note from me based on the way the list was constructed and commentary from experts, this is understood to have been intended to include both watch and wait and remission post treatment]
people having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
people having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
people who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe chronic obstructive pulmonary (COPD).
People with rare diseases that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), homozygous sickle cell).
People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection.
Women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired.
People in this group should have been contacted to tell them they are clinically extremely vulnerable.
If you’re still concerned, you should discuss your concerns with your GP or hospital clinician.
So it is rather frustrating to see the BBC omitting blood cancer completely from a list of who is supposed to shield. Some might even think that meant we had now been removed from the list which we clearly have not. Confusion can cost lives! For the first time in years I have put in a formal complaint to the BBC and contacted them more immediately via WhatsApp to put this point across, you might want to do the same.
The Telegraph article was rather clearer though still didn’t explain adequately who has been shielding or what it involves. It did include a nice quote from the Prime Minister, however, and had a much better overall tone in my view.
“I want to thank everyone who has followed the shielding guidance – it is because of your patience and sacrifice that thousands of lives have been saved.“I do not underestimate just how difficult it has been for you, staying at home for the last 10 weeks, and I want to pay tribute to your resilience.
“I will do what I can, in line with the scientific advice, to continue making life easier for you over the coming weeks and months.”Boris Johnson
Here is my question as submitted to the Number 10 Press Office. Hopefully whether this is selected or not some answers will be forthcoming at the press conference which will be live on BBC at 4pm today:-
I am Adrian Warnock. I have been strictly shielding due to blood cancer. Do you agree that it was irresponsible for the BBC to announce this inaccurately this morning, talking about it as rules rather than advice, since we have been “allowed” to make our own assessment and go out all along? Can you clarify the science behind the change since so many people are out now it may still be high risk in some areas for us to go walking? Also can you confirm that who should be on the list has not changed? Will the timing be extended & should shielders be being paid as furlongs workers?