Covid-19: ‘We’ll be second-class citizens if self-isolation rules go’

Work-from-home guidance has been scrapped, mandatory mask-wearing will soon go and Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said compulsory self-isolation could be next. But what happens to people who cannot live with the virus, because their immune conditions mean vaccines may not work?

For nearly two years, Julie – not her real name – has worked from home and lived like “an absolute hermit”, knowing that her condition means a coronavirus infection could be more deadly.

That didn’t change even after her third jab, because she has to take medication to suppress her immune system, meaning her body may not be able to respond to the vaccine.

But as soon as Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the health secretary announced the end of Plan B measures in England, including the advice to work from home if possible, her manager called her, pressuring her to come back to the workplace.

“It’s terrifying, absolutely terrifying,” she says. Most of her job in customer service can be done online, but a small part involves sometimes managing the front desk of an organisation with thousands of people.

If coronavirus measures such as self-isolation come to an end, those people could pose a greater risk to her – along with the estimated 500,000 people who have conditions which mean vaccination may not work for them.

“People lean over the counter, they’re in your face. My boss doesn’t care that he will put me in an extremely risky position with hundreds or maybe thousands of people coming to the desk, vaccinated or not, and now not wearing any masks,” she says.

“I understand that a lot of people are really fed up with all the restrictions. But I just feel like a second-class citizen now.”

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