Freedom Day leaves disabled people scared and isolated as ‘just 2%’ feel safe

Freedom Day has left disabled people in England scared and isolated as a survey suggests just 2% of the community will feel safe.

Some fear they have no other option but to “shut themselves indoors” from Monday as England moves into Step 4 of Boris Johnson ’s roadmap out of lockdown.

All legal restrictions will end with social distancing scrapped, no more limits on the number of people you can meet, including at weddings, funerals, places of worship or any type of celebration or event.

And extremely vulnerable people, including those with cancer or severe respiratory conditions, are advised to follow the same guidance as everyone else.

A YouGov survey revealed these measures have left 55% of disabled people feeling anxious and scared of becoming seriously ill.

Elizabeth, from West Sussex has Postural Tachycardia Syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

Her condition leaves her with a lowered immune system so she is vulnerable to coronavirus and battling chronic pain and a number of other debilitating symptoms such as blackouts, tremors, and intense fatigue.

She said: “To be honest I feel hurt and upset and angry. I thought we were getting somewhere in terms of the disabled community being listened to.

“I thought people had listened to what we were saying about the issues we faced even before lockdown, and the huge impact of the pandemic on top of that – I felt like our voices were finally being heard.

“Now it just feels like everyone is over coronavirus and wants to get back to the way things were and, to get there, they’re willing to put our lives on the line again.

“They just want us to shut ourselves up in doors and it makes me feel like our lives aren’t as valued as non-disabled people.”

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: On Monday all legal restrictions on social distancing will be scrapped© Getty Images On Monday all legal restrictions on social distancing will be scrapped

Research from the disability equality charity Scope found disabled people are more likely than their non-disabled counterparts to avoid public transport with 53% of disabled people feeling unsafe traveling freely.

James Taylor, of disability equality charity Scope, said: “We know there are some disabled people who are looking forward to things opening up and relieved to return to some sort of normality, but there are many who are feeling worried about what the future holds.

“These stark findings show that in the rush to unlock, a huge proportion of the disabled community are yet again being forgotten and left behind by Government.

“What’s being dubbed ‘Freedom Day’ by some will mean the exact opposite for many disabled people, who have legitimate fears about their risk from Covid-19 as infection rates surge.

“We’re in danger of creating a two-tier society.”

The findings come as scientists fear the Prime Minister’s plan will not only cause deaths but also debilitating long COVID in many, while increasing risks to the clinically vulnerable.

Christina Pagel, professor of operational research at UCL said: “It’s not inevitable that you’re going to have an exit wave… it’s only inevitable if we’re not going to do anything about it.”


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