I apologise if anyone considers this to be arrogant or in any way condescending, that’s really not my intention, but I’ve noticed quite a few posts over the last few days (somewhat understandably) from people with lung conditions or caring for people with lung conditions, asking about whether they should be isolating. To the BLF administrators, it would be really helpful if the BLF perhaps made an official, ‘sticky’ post at the top of the home page with this information, but it’s actually really quite straight forward: [Your wish is our command Charlie. This is an excellent post and deserves to be pinned so it can easily be found and read again.]
If you would normally be advised to have a seasonal flu vaccine each year as the result of being considered high risk, even if you don’t actually *choose* to have it, you are considered higher risk for complications from contacting covid-19 and fall within the government definition of vulnerable. Almost all people with chronic lung conditions fall into this category, including asthma and COPD.
The official advice for those who are in the vulnerable groups, which in addition to those aged over 70 absolutely includes anyone who is advised to routinely receive the flu jab, is currently that we should be practicing social distancing. In effect, this actually means isolating ourselves from contact with others as much as possible to avoid contracting the virus, and it’s expected that the advice will imminently change in the next few days to suggest we self-isolate at home for a number of weeks and months to protect ourselves as much as we possibly can. This means not leaving the house unless absolutely necessary, or avoiding all contact with others if you do have to go out.
As an otherwise low risk carer, the issue of whether to also self-isolate alongside the person you care for is slightly more difficult, and everyone must do what they feel appropriate for the circumstances, however advice can be obtained from a number of reliable sources, including from Carer’s UK, that amongst other things currently advocates stringent following of Public Health England advice around personal hygiene, when to isolate due to experiencing symptoms, and what to do if you’re providing informal care for someone that you don’t live with and suddenly find you can’t safely care for them as a result of the outbreak.
The current advice is to my mind somewhat unclear, as until I personally became high risk in December I was one, but informal carers are actually advised to obtain the seasonal flu vaccine to protect those they care for, and this is therefore entirely my personal view: if someone considered high risk is dependent on your care, very serious consideration needs to be given to isolating alongside them for the duration of any measures advised to protect them. Measures are coming in to place to prevent unnecessary issues with mortgages/rent, and finances generally, and it’s not always well known that anyone that is the primary carer for someone qualified as disabled under the Equality Act 2010 is entitled to the same protections occupationally as if that person was being employed in the role. This means that you are legally entitled to up to 18 weeks leave to care (or organise care) for them, albeit unpaid in many cases, but access to universal credit may well be an option for many, and I speak from experience as a full-time carer when I say it’s not perfect as a benefit, but it’s not actually that bad either, and we are in a situation where ‘needs very much must’ to protect those we care for.
I really hope this information is useful to anyone questioning whether they are considered vulnerable, or otherwise wondering what to do for the best with regards to someone they provide care for. It’s really important to realise and acknowledge that some people with underlying health problems are absolutely going to survive contracting covid-19, evidence from other countries shows it’s not actually a death sentence: preventing infection by staying in and isolating is mostly about not overwhelming the health services in one go, and we can all play our part by not going out if we are high risk, and making the right choices that protect those we care for if we wouldn’t otherwise be considered high risk. To paraphrase various posts I’ve seen from medical professionals shared here and on social media: they’re doing their part by going to work, high risk individuals need to do their part by staying home.