Northern Ireland news

Northern Ireland's clinically extremely vulnerable `in more danger now than at any time during the pandemic'

Founder Emmy Kelly said people are now in real harm because of the removal of shielding

CLINICALLY extremely vulnerable children and adults in Northern Ireland "are in more danger now than at any time during the pandemic", a campaign group has warned.

Waning vaccine protection, a "chaotic" booster rollout and removal of social distancing in shops, cinemas, theatres and many other indoor settings have left thousands "trapped in their own homes" experiencing severe financial hardship.

Emmy Kelly, who is "severely immumo-compromised" and has two special needs children, founded Fighting for Vulnerable Lives earlier this month after working with more than 1,000 people through the Shield Us support group.

It is a response to protected status being removed from people who remain at serious risk from Covid-19 infection.

Ms Kelly said people are now in danger of real harm because of the removal of shielding.

"One person fell down the stairs and broke their leg, but they didn't go to hospital because it was `on alert' with staff being called in to help and they couldn't risk being in such a crowded place without protection.

"That was a couple of months ago and they haven't had it seen to. It's at the point now for them where `it is what it is' and it's just another disability that they have for to deal with."

She said others have been unable to return to work safely and lost their jobs, now relying on deliveries from food banks to survive.

"I have been personally supporting people throughout the pandemic and it's worse than it has ever been," the mother-of-three said.

"I'm hearing problems from every single clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) person, I'm supporting families, I'm supporting teachers - people are feeling they are in more danger now than they have been at any time during the pandemic."

Ms Kelly said many seriously-ill and disabled people - including one person with a tracheotomy - feel it is unsafe for their carers to enter their homes.

"It's a postcode lottery. In some places carers are required to be double-vaccinated and to stay off work if they live with someone who has the virus. In others service users have no right to know their vaccination status - even if their condition puts them at grave risk if they catch Covid-19.

"They're not letting them in to give them the care they need because they don't know if it will put them in intensive care.

"The booster rollout is a disaster. Completely chaotic".

The Department of Health said "advice for CEV people remains under review".

"We recognise the anxieties faced by those who are at higher risk," a spokesman said.

"However, since the concept was introduced at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 there have been a number of important developments, not least the Covid vaccination programme and the offer of third doses and boosters jabs as we approach winter.

"Those who are able to work from home should continue to do so. If it is currently not possible to work from home, you can attend your workplace, provided your employer has taken appropriate measures.

"All employers have a 'duty of care' for staff and, in practice, this means taking all steps they reasonably can to support the health, safety and wellbeing of their staff.

"It is important to remember that we all have a role in protecting ourselves and others through basic measures such as taking up vaccinations , use of face coverings and hand hygiene."

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