All Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted in England and Northern Ireland, and this will be the case in Scotland and Wales from the end of March. Our writer Raya, who has muscular dystrophy and respiratory failure, talks about why she is frightened about the changes and concerned about the future of many disabled people.
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the message has been the same – it’s a battle and it’s all about the survival of the fittest. Yes, it has never been boldly said but, in my view, people’s actions and attitudes have demonstrated this statement.
As a disabled person, I have always known that there are many barriers for disabled people. I have sadly gotten accustomed to being denied entry to venues due to access, being rejected for job opportunities and battling to gain simple rights that are taken for granted by many.
I had accepted all of these obstacles as part of life and constantly reminded myself that no human being has an easy path in this world and I have got it better than others. Then Covid came along and it changed everything.
For the first month or so, people played a kind and caring role. But, like everything in our current time, people get ‘bored’ and ‘restless’. The sacrifices require effort and the natural human instinct kicks in – ‘me before others’.
This paved the way for the many divisions in our society that have occurred over the past 23 months, from masks to vaccines and restrictions and Covid passports. So the myth of ‘we are all in this together’ came to an end.
While many will rejoice at the lifting of all Covid restrictions, I, along with approximately 3.7 million of people with disability or health conditions will be fearful, insulted, angry and anxious as to what the months ahead will hold for us.
I do understand why people are eager for a return to pre-covid days – I do as well. Many disabled people are not against the idea of reclaiming their life back, but the cost for us is much higher than the rest of society.
From the beginning, we have been told that we might not survive the virus and, if we do, the after effect will be far more severe.
This is assuming that we will be saved because, when Covid first reared its head, some disabled people were told that we might not be considered for treatment.
Imagine for a second how devalued one must feel at being indirectly told you might not be saved? I wonder if the same was said to the rest of society that they would still be eager to lift all restrictions.
In my view, the decision to lift restrictions at this time is baffling. Daily cases are still high and the government and medical professionals’ advice is for people with health conditions is to avoid unvaccinated people, crowded places and to ask visitors to take a lateral flow test. So where is the ‘protection’ for people like me?
How can a government that keeps on highlighting that this virus is more dangerous for people with health conditions abandon the very same people?
We all want to go back to our pre-covid life, but at what price? The government is telling us we need to be cautious and protected, but that they won’t be providing us with anything apart from the vaccine – something that has been provided for the entire nation.
In simple terms, we are essentailly expected to carry on shielding, ‘locked out’ of society, watching people going out and enjoy what we have been deprived of.
It saddens me to see how we have gone back in time. Decades ago disabled people were kept at home by their families due to the lack of accessibility and society’s cruel and prejudiced attitude. In 2022, we are being kept at home once again, by a forced personal choice because of the self-absorbed, selfish society we live in.
So why are the restrictions being lifted? I believe it is to do with the economy, although the government has said that it is also because of people’s mental health. That is ironic coming from the same government that for years has underfunded the mental health sector.
So what about the mental health of people like me? Does the government realise how anxious we are at bumping into someone with Covid? Does it realise the panic we endure every time a carer comes into our home, knowing that legally they are not required to self isolate if they have Covid?
Does the government know how sad we get seeing people post their various outings on social media, looking at all the new theatre productions, restaurants, venues etc, and knowing that we can’t go?
Does our government comprehend how worthless and devalued we feel knowing that we are not part of the plan to ‘live with covid’, or how angry and insulted we are when people tell us to be ‘brave’ or ‘confident’ and rejoin the world, as though we are wimps.
Yes, we need to learn to live with Covid. But like other countries across the globe, why can’t we keep masks in indoor settings, show proof of negative tests or vaccination, and certainly not allow people to roam the streets if they have Covid?
If we are really in this together as claimed at the start then we should move on together and disabled people and those with health conditions should not be left behind.
By Raya AlJadir
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