Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Comment
28 January 2022

Ending masks and isolation will kill vulnerable people

People say their human rights are being violated by Covid rules but they have no qualms about taking away my own.

By Rachel Charlton-Dailey

Last week Boris Johnson announced his latest changes to the pandemic restrictions in England: in brief, that he was scrapping most of them. As of yesterday, masks no longer need to be worn in public, and what has really spooked many of us is the suggestion that in the longer-term there will no compulsory isolation for those with Covid-19.

Many consider this the road to living with the virus but for the vulnerable it is simply the road to not living. Yesterday I simply felt nauseous deep within my stomach; I knew this meant that my already tiny world would be shrinking once again. As someone who lives with a whole host of illnesses including lupus, arthritis, asthma and osteoporosis (these are just the ones that qualify me as clinically extremely vulnerable to Covid-19) these past two years have been an awful time. My life outside the house at the moment is limited to daily dog walks and twice-weekly supermarket trips, but the realisation that even that would be unsafe now became too much.

Masks were the one thing that helped disabled and chronically ill people like myself to feel remotely protected. Knowing people will no longer wear them leaves me feeling scared to go out in public. No-one knows exactly how much masks limit transmission, it is true, but the majority of studies show that they work. It has become a matter of common decency to wear one. It is one thing to say “we can’t stay locked up forever”, but many would happily see people like me forced to stay in their homes so they no longer have to slip a bit of fabric over their face when on the Tube. They act as though their freedom and basic human rights are being stripped away when asked to cover their noses and mouths, but have no qualms about taking away my own freedom.

And then there is the proposal that people wouldn’t have to self-isolate upon catching Covid. How we have gone from ten days of isolation, to seven, five ⁠— and now just reversed the whole system, principle even, of isolation ⁠— is beyond me. A person having to self-isolate for five days (under fairly rare circumstances of catching Covid, given the peak of the Omicron variant wave has passed) is somehow seen as a bigger sacrifice than my life being at risk every time I leave the house.

It represents the worst aspect of the pandemic for me ⁠— not that I had to protect myself from a deadly virus, but that I’ve had to defend my right to live against people who think my life is collateral damage.

I can’t help feeling that the timing of this announcement is a little suspicious; Johnson is in a precarious position and he’d throw anyone under the bus to save his own skin. And unfortunately, where the Prime Minister is concerned, the vulnerable, the old and those whose voices cannot be heard are an easy target. 

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy
THANK YOU

Content from our partners
How industry is key for net zero
How to ensure net zero brings good growth and green jobs
Flooding is a major risk for our homes

Topics in this article: , ,