It's probably accurate to say that as 19 July approaches - the date that the government have anointed as 'Freedom Day' and have said that all remaining COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted, and nightclubs will finally reopen - people are experiencing mixed feelings.
For many, they're delighted at the prospect of there no longer being any limits on how many they can socialise with, for others, especially those who are part of the disabled or immunocompromised community, the feelings are less joyful. Because for millions, 'Freedom Day' is nothing more than another Monday, that will still see them having to carefully consider where to go, who to hang out with and the risk of coronavirus to their health.
Speaking about her feelings in an eloquent Instagram post, Nina Tame, a writer and activist with Spina Bifida, said that she was 'naively' looking forward to this summer, after the write-off that was last year's. "I was optimistically (naively) looking forward to this summer... Figured I’d be double dosed and cases would be mega low and after 18 months of not going anywhere I’d feel safe to venture out again," she wrote. "I watched as our PM said out loud that the 'pandemic is not over but we’re still easing all restrictions' with horror."
Continuing on, Nina explained that as cases are continuing to raise and the new Delta variant is causing concern, she's found herself back in "high alert mode, weighing up every situation and how safe it feels for me". She added that the virus has become another access barrier to think about, along with 'do they have step free access and disabled toilets?', only more dangerous.
"I know already some disabled folks are being invited by their non-disabled friends to come celebrate 'Freedom Day' 🤢 with no thought or understanding that there’s no freedom day if you’ve got underlying conditions," Nina rightly points out. "Also imagine thinking your freedoms have been taken away in the first place cos you’ve had to wear a mask 🙄"
She's now using her platform to try and help normalise asking disabled and sick folks what their boundaries are, continuing to give people space when out in public and taking rapid flow tests at gatherings. Nina advises asking simple questions such as, "Hey I’d really like to see you, is there a way we can do that that would feel safe for you?" and acknowledging that not everybody is in the same boat.
When speaking to Cosmopolitan, she added that the vaccine rollout hasn't made a difference for some and the threat of the virus is still very real, "There are many disabled and sick people who aren’t fully dosed yet, and some disabled folks can’t be vaccinated at all," Nina says. "You can also still catch Covid if you've had both doses of the vaccine, and if you’ve an underlying health condition, it could still leave you very poorly. [Covid] could make all your current health issues worse."
She also points out that lower case numbers and the majority of the UK being vaccinated would have felt safer, although still not ideal. "Letting infections go wild means so many of us are forced back into isolation or forced to risk our lives so we can remain working. Vulnerable people being told to stay home erases the fact many of us have jobs and children and maybe even a social life we’d like to return to."
It's Nina's hope that wearing a mask will still remain the norm, too. "It’s not a case of mask-wearing being an individual thing to keep yourself safe; masks help prevent the spread of the virus, meaning it has to be a community effort to keep everyone safe."
If you're also concerned about restrictions easing this coming Monday, remember that there are no rules to say you have to jump back into socialising right away - it's more than okay to take things at your own pace and stick to whatever decisions you feel most comfortable with. It's also never a bad idea to check in with your friends and see how they're feeling about all the changes, too.
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