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I’m worried that those of us shielding will be left behind

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I’ve found the last weekend particularly hard since lockdown has been eased (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

I think we can all agree there is a lot of uncertainty at the moment. 

Like many people, I watched Boris Johnson announce his action plan for getting out of lockdown last week with a puzzled look on my face. 

This confusion turned to frustration when the following day he shared a document, which stated that those who are in the ‘clinically extremely vulnerable cohort’ will have to shield themselves for ‘some time yet’. 

How long is a piece of string, prime minister? 

I may be labelled as one of the most ‘vulnerable’ members of society but I still have a career to think about, bills to pay and friends and family I desperately want to see. 

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Once again, it feels as if disabled and ‘high-risk’ people have become an afterthought. I appreciate that keeping us indoors may be the safest thing to do – and that is fair enough – but there is very little in place to help boost our quality of life to help us through lockdown. 

I don’t feel like the government cares about me or the lives of disabled people. It’s just another emotion to process during a period that has felt akin to a turbulent rollercoaster. 

When lockdown was first announced I had plenty of people messaging me to say they were bored out of their minds, complaining about having their independence limited. I feel embarrassed now, but at the time I almost felt glad that they had a taste of what life is like for millions of disabled people. 

I’ve found the last weekend particularly hard since lockdown has been eased. Flicking through my Instagram stories, seeing hordes of people in the parks and meeting up with one another – at a distance – in the sun, I felt jealous of their freedom to be out and about. 

I also, like a lot of people, worried that this easing of restrictions will bring about a second wave, which not only would leave ‘high risk’ people in isolation for longer, but would be an absolute tragedy. 

It took me a while, but I realised my frustration at people in particular is misguided as we’re all weathering the same storm. It’s just hard to know you’re not in the same boat. 

One thing I have come to realise and almost made peace with is that my life will never be the same again because of the pandemic

Having reached out to my friends across the globe who are in the ‘vulnerable’ category, we have all come to the same conclusion: realistically, we’ll be shielding until there is a vaccine. 

Honestly, the prospect of being in lockdown until a working vaccine is found, with no definitive timescale, scares me and I worry about being left behind. 

I try not to dwell on the news that there is no guarantee of one either, as it just leads me to picture the bumpy, uncertain road ahead, filled with fear and risk. 

One thing I have come to understand and almost made peace with is that my life will never be the same again because of the pandemic. 

For now, I’m planning and giving my future any structure I can. 

I’ve just ordered a handmade face mask online. It’s very me, with little purple and blue flowers. 

I’m currently at my mum’s house but I know that I can’t stay here forever and will have to return to London. 

When I can go out, I will have some disinfectant wipes by my front door so I can wipe down my wheelchair’s wheels before entering the flat. 

My personal assistant will come round in PPE and we’ll maintain social distancing where possible. 

I’ll have a mask on whenever I get taxis and public transport. 

No more shaking hands, no more cute little embraces that I’m known to do. Instead, the people I adore will be greeted with a warm smile (although whether they can see it behind my mask might be an issue). 

All meetings will be by Zoom or other web platforms. Ironically, I’ve asked people to use these in the past to make our meetings more accessible only to have the idea scoffed at. It’s a silver lining I suppose. 

I’m trying not to dwell too much on the challenges like the availability of food deliveries, whether my road will be pedestrianised (as the Mayor is proposing many in London become) thus making it harder for me to avoid people, and the general vagueness surrounding timelines. 

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What I would like to see happen is the government recognise that disability rights are civil rights and aren’t optional. 

I’d like better support to care givers and to be at the forefront of any planning that directly impacts our independence and rights.

Mostly, I just want ‘vulnerable’ people’s sacrifice to be acknowledged and for us to be informed, advised and ultimately not forgotten about.

Do you have a story that you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing jess.austin@metro.co.uk

Share your views in the comments below.

MORE: My Quarantine Routine: Lucy, a broadcaster, Youtuber and disability rights campaigner who is blind

MORE: I’m a key worker who needs to commute – but my disability means people don’t believe me

MORE: Carers are risking their lives to help disabled people like me

Coronavirus

What are the 5 levels of lockdown in the UK?

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5 levels of lockdown in the UK

The pandemic, COVID-19, has left people devastated and governments are taking every measure to help people face this problematic situation. Coronavirus disease is not for you or me, it’s for everyone. No one knows the beginning and end, it’s just happening around! Coronavirus outbreak is divided into five different levels and The UK is currently at Level 4 of the breakdown structure. Read below to know about various levels and other information about lockdown in the UK.

5 Levels of lockdown

Level 5: RED

The disease is spreading like hell at this stage. R number is significantly above one in most parts of the nation.

As a result, the country runs under a shortage of resources in hospitals.

Level 4: Between orange and Red

When the value of Ro increases from 1 at least in some areas, it falls you in level 4. More strict measures have been taken in this.

The lockdown is imposed by the government. Britain is at this level.

Level 3: ORANGE

New Infections are reported and Ro number is increasing but not significantly. Ro is the reproduction rate of disease from person to person. R<1 in Level 3.

The partial lockdown has started in this stage. Supermarkets and essential commodity shops are allowed to open. Schools, restaurants, Malls have closed.

Level 2: Between Green and Orange

Virus Transmission is at minimum level leaves you in Level 2. This means the cases have started rising from 0 to above. Advised to stay indoors but no lockdown is there. Schools are allowed to open, supermarkets re allowed to open with social distancing.

Level 1: GREEN

If the country reached level one, it means we have achieved normal lives. Everything will be back to normal and reopen. No more lockdown and fear of anything. But this could only be possible when a certain vaccine been made to recover the COVID-19 infected patient. The world has to pass through a lot of losses before attaining this level. Many universities and medical pharmaceutical companies are working over the vaccine and hope to get the good news soon.

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab confirmed on Sunday the country is in the process of ‘transitioning’ to level three, telling Sky’s Sophy Ridge: ‘We’re transitioning from level four to level three.’

Maintaining Social Distancing is the only big measure to save yourself from such a deadly disease. Other measures to consider are wash hands frequently, maintain hygiene, wear masks, Do not cough, or sneeze directly in the air. Yes, people around the world can not do anything for this deadly COVID-19 disease but I would say some measures that are in your hands should be followed properly. Take care 🙂

 

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When are department stores reopening and will you be able to try on clothes?

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Department stores have re-opened in some parts of the world (Picture: AFP/Getty Images)

The next phase of the easing of the UK’s lockdown measures will see the return of some non-essential retail to the high street, with shops set to open their doors from 15 June.

Boris Johnson announced the measure on Monday, giving the green light to clothes shops and other stores – which have been shut since the end of March – to re-open.

Some retailers have already announced their plans for re-opening – although shopping is likely to be very different for some times with social distancing and other measures being put in place as a bid to keep Covid-19 at bay.

But where does this leave department stores? Here’s what we know so far…

When are department stores re-opening?

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Some department stores have already announced their re-opening plans, and here’s how it is currently looking:

John Lewis

John Lewis will be opening its doors again next month (Picture: Rex Shutterstock)

John Lewis has announced a phased re-opening of its stores, starting with the Poole and Kingston branches on 15 June, followed by 11 others on 18 June – and more to follow over the summer.

The chain has said it will have new social distancing measures in place, from limiting the number of customers entering the store, through to having prominent social distancing signs, control procedures for escalators and a limit on the number of people in lifts, and rigorous cleaning routines implemented.

They will also provide hand sanitiser for customers at entrances and install protective screens at checkouts and in parts of the shop where social distancing is not possible.

Debenhams

Debenhams has closed some branches permanently while it has been shut (Picture: Getty Images)

Debenhams has yet to reveal its plans for re-opening, although it’s been reported they plan to open 90 branches across England from 15 June.

However the reports say not all of their stores will open on that date, while branches in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which have been subject to different restrictions, are likely to be later.

The company announced in April that four of its branches – Southampton, Kidderminster, Borehamwood and Swindon – were to close permanently.

House Of Fraser/Sports Direct

House Of Fraser has yet to reveal its re-opening plans (Picture: Getty Images)

House Of Fraser and Sports Direct have yet to reveal their plans for re-opening.

The company hit the headlines back in March after Sports Direct announced they were remaining open during lockdown, saying that selling sports and fitness equipment which could be used at home while gyms were closed was providing people with an essential service.

However they closed the following day in a dramatic U-turn.

Marks and Spencer

Marks and Spencer’s food halls have remained open while the rest of the store is closed (Picture: PA)

Marks and Spencer’s food halls have remained open during lockdown, although other parts of their stores have been closed.

However they have said they also plan to re-open stores more fully from June, putting in place the same social distancing measures that have been in place in their food halls in the wake of the pandemic.

Will you be able to try on clothes in department stores?

It’s likely that while shops will re-open, changing rooms will remain closed for the time being.

However retailers are reported to be working on ways to allow changing rooms to re-open at a later date.

This could potentially include ‘quarantining’ clothes – that is, removing all clothes that have been tried on by customers from the shop floor for 72 hours before they can be put back on sale.

This has been adopted in countries including Canada, France and Italy, where clothes have been kept off sale for a period of time and steam cleaned before they are returned to the shop floor.

Shoe shops could have a similar system, with Kurt Geiger having reportedly said that shoes will be quarantined for 24 hours after a customer has tried them on, while people will be asked to wear disposable socks when trying on shoes.

MORE: This Morning’s Ruth Langsford insists she hasn’t broken lockdown as fans suspect she’s flouted rules to see a hairdresser

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This is what theatres could look like when they reopen after lockdown

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A picture of a German theatre shows a ‘new reality’ amid the coronavirus crisis (Picture: @blnensemble)

A theatre company in Germany has offered a first look at how social distancing will work when audiences return.

Normally there is space for around 700 people in the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm in Berlin – but, amid the coronavirus crisis, only 200 guests will be welcomed to watch plays at one time.

A picture posted to the Berliner Ensemble’s social media shows the bizarre circumstances theatre-goers will find themselves under, with seats arranged metres apart, in groups of one or two.

Speaking on Twitter, the theatre company said it would be the ‘new reality’ from when it reopens in September.

They added that all chairs were being refurbished and renovated, but would not reveal information about how booking tickets would work and how much they would be.

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The picture, which received more than 2,000 retweets, provoked a mix of reactions from fans.

One person said the image made her sad as it looked ‘so unusual’, while another said: ‘I do not know if I should laugh or cry…’

Meanwhile, one Twitter user joked that it was his ‘dream’ to be as far away from other people as possible at the theatre.

Theater am Schiffbauerdamm before the coronavirus crisis (Picture: Berliner Ensemble)

The UK government has stated some hospitality businesses could reopen from 4 July – but this relies on infection and death rates staying low.

The Society of London Theatre has been unable to give a firm date for the reopening of all West End theatres, saying different theatres and productions are likely to reopen at different times.

It comes as Vue, one of the UK’s biggest cinema chains, sets out a plan to reopen cinemas using social distancing measures.

In a statement, Vue said families would sit together apart from strangers to watch films, while screening times would be staggered and enhanced cleaning would be put in place.

It read: ‘We have been liaising closely with authorities across Europe to design operating procedures that can provide the degree of social distancing required and allow an experience for our customers and staff that is as safe as possible.’

Bosses at Cineworld have stated they are monitoring the situation and cannot provide a firm date for reopening.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

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