My Concerns as COVID-19 Restrictions Are Lifted in the UK

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by Mary Shaniqua |

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Most COVID-19 restriction laws were lifted in England on July 19. This includes mask requirements, social distancing rules, work-from-home guidance, and the rule of six, or the maximum number of people allowed at a social gathering.

July 19 has been dubbed “Freedom Day” here in the U.K., but I can’t help but worry how this will affect the sickle cell community.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I was both stunned and impressed that sickle cell patients were included in the list of clinically vulnerable patients. In my experience, general knowledge of sickle cell is relatively limited in the U.K. In fact, prior to the pandemic, I had never heard sickle cell mentioned on prime-time news or in government briefings. I was glad we had not been overlooked this time.

My initial optimism declined after seeing several media exposés about the government’s handling of the pandemic. Now, I am mostly worried about society taking a lackadaisical approach to safety when the number of new COVID-19 cases is rising. But I also appreciate that it’s not feasible to live life paralyzed by fear.

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I’m Cautiously Optimistic as COVID-19 Restrictions Ease in the UK

I have been waiting for months to have my life back. Now that the moment is here, I am highly concerned.

I haven’t seen many friends and family in well over a year, since the pandemic began. I assumed that once restrictions were lifted, I would be keen to get out and see everyone I have missed. Yet I remain apprehensive about going outdoors and mixing.

Admittedly, it has not yet been a full week without restrictions, so I’ve not had many opportunities to be out in this new environment. Perhaps my fears are unwarranted. Who knows?

Despite my worries, I understand the importance of resuming some form of normalcy while we have the opportunity — particularly if experts’ predictions are accurate, and the U.K. sees a surge in COVID-19 cases that results in another lockdown this winter. If that happens and I don’t utilize the opportunity to integrate now, I will be kicking myself for not seeing loved ones while I could. So, I have to find a balance.

I plan to socialize with friends and integrate with crowds larger than six; however, I may avoid extremely large crowds such as concerts, sporting events, and the like for the foreseeable future. I will also continue working from home for at least the next month or so.

Moreover, I will utilize the testing mechanisms in place to try to avoid potentially transmitting the virus to others.

I have been relatively lucky, because lockdown has been easy for me. I haven’t felt lonely or experienced any mental health or financial struggles as a result. Of course, I miss people, but not to the extent that it affects my well-being. I acknowledge that I am likely in the minority on this.

Though my mental health has not been affected, I’m sure my physical well-being has been. For example, I am barely clocking 5,000 steps per day walking around my little flat and neighborhood. I have a history of pulmonary embolism, so this is not good. Limited exposure to the great outdoors and other people can also have a detrimental impact on the immune system.

I would encourage other sickle cell patients to try to integrate into society little by little and be cautious every step of the way. While I am following government guidance, I also intend to make decisions based upon my personal comfort levels.

As promised, I have already made my reservation for some fantastic steak next weekend!

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Note: Sickle Cell Anemia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sickle Cell Anemia News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sickle cell anemia.

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