Disability activists ready to take legal action after PM ends self-isolation rule – Disability News Service

Two disabled activists who spent most of pandemic protection are set to take legal action against the government, after the Prime Minister confirmed he was ending the legal requirement to self-isolate after a COVID test -19 positive.

Both Fleur Perry and Doug Paulley are considered clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) to the virus and believe the decision to end mandatory self-isolation in England from today (Thursday) puts people with disabilities at risk an “unnecessary risk”.

They have already exceeded half of a crowdfunding goal of £8,000 to fund their legal action.

Since March 2020, Perry has only visited five indoor venues, two of them for medical reasons, and has not seen most family and friends in two years.

She believes the government’s decision to end the self-isolation requirement for people with Covid will further restrict her life, as many Covid-positive people are likely to share public spaces with her.

Paulley, who regularly uses public transport, believes the increased circulation of COVID-19 in the community, without a requirement to self-isolate, will put him – and other residents of his care home – at significantly increased risk and greatly restrict his movements. .

This week, their lawyers at Rook Irwin Sweeney sent an urgent letter warning the government of possible legal action in connection with its “discriminatory and irrational” decision.

Perry and Paulley believe the government failed in its duty under the Equality Act to consult with people with disabilities before making the decision to self-isolate and consider what steps could have been taken to mitigate the impact of this decision.

They believe there has been “a complete lack of consideration for the needs of people with disabilities and VECs”.

They want the government to withdraw its illegal new plan, carry out an equality impact assessment of the future removal of COVID-19 restrictions and apologize to people with disabilities and VECs for the “distress and anxiety” that the government’s actions have caused them.

They have already sent a letter to ministers warning them that a legal challenge will follow if plans to end the self-isolation law go through, and saying it was “unclear on what data or on what scientific basis the decision was made”.

They say the government’s decision to end the legal requirement to isolate exposes them and 3.2 million other CEV people who have shielded themselves, for example in schools, workplaces and public places, at a time when the number of new positive tests per week is still nearly 290,000 across the UK.

They believe those most at risk from the government’s decision will be people with disabilities, especially women with disabilities, just as they have been throughout the pandemic.

They said: ‘Restrictions are being lifted one by one, but the safety of those most at risk is not discussed.

“Ending isolation early will increase the risk to people with disabilities and lead to preventable hospitalizations and deaths.

“We want to call on the government to ignore people with disabilities and make sure they find and review all disability safety data.”

Their efforts were strongly supported by other people with disabilities and allies who contributed to the crowdfunding offer.

One said, on the crowdfunding site: ‘High risk wheelchair user with a high risk child, protected for two years, I will not feel safe at the appointments needed for the hospital if staff and other patients are not tested and contagious.

“These are the only places we have been to for two years. Our lives should matter.

Another said, “Thank you so much for what you do! Signed, An immunocompromised CEV medical student.

A third disabled supporter wrote: “Ending isolation will make it too dangerous to leave my home. Thanks for doing this.

Another, who said he couldn’t add his name because he was a civil servant, said: “Thank you for arranging this. Lockdown and restrictions also have effects on people with disabilities, but all people with disabilities must have their needs taken into account when making decisions affecting the lives of the whole country. »

In a statement to MPs on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “those who wait for this war to end completely before lifting the remaining regulations will be restricting the freedoms of the British people for a long time to come”. , and that the government “does not think it is right or necessary”.

He said the restrictions imposed “a heavy toll on our economy, our society, our mental well-being and the life chances of our children, and we no longer need to pay that cost”.

Johnson said the government would “continue to protect the most vulnerable with targeted vaccines and treatments.”

He said the legal requirement to self-isolate after testing positive would end from today, as would self-isolation support payments, routine contact tracing and the legal obligation for close contacts of a person with coronavirus who is not fully vaccinated to self-isolate. .

Johnson then agreed with Tory MP Lee Anderson that the country “should never return to full lockdown” and that any future isolation should be targeted at “the clinically vulnerable” and the elderly.

After April 1, the government will no longer even advise people who test positive to stay at home, but rather encourage them to “exercise personal responsibility”.

On April 1, the government will end free testing for the ‘general public’, although Johnson said the government would continue to provide free testing to ‘older age groups and those most vulnerable to Covid’ who show symptoms of the virus.

Perry said the combination of the end to free testing and self-isolation rules was “very disappointing”.

She told DNS: “These changes will disproportionately increase risks and costs for people with disabilities, a group already disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

“The emphasis on safety by limiting activities to avoid catching the virus, as opposed to those who are most likely to spread it bearing some responsibility, is something we have seen repeatedly at the during the pandemic, and this is leading to the spread of some worrying attitudes.

“I’ve been asked in different ways, ‘Why should we do anything for you? Why can’t you stay safe at home indefinitely? with “you” referring to anyone who has ever been asked to protect themselves.

“I remind them that they are asking 3.2 million people to give their lives or put themselves in danger, and that we are not going to make the world we want work through exclusion.

“The government must take the risk to people with disabilities seriously and show that it has followed a legal decision-making process and takes into account the needs and views of people with disabilities.”

New government guidance for England, also published on Monday, focused – in its section on “protecting those most vulnerable to COVID-19” – on access to vaccines and treatment, and maintaining the free access to personal protective equipment (PPE) for adults. care sector in England.

The Department of Health and Social Care said yesterday (Wednesday) it was unable to comment on ongoing legal proceedings.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s announcements contrasted with those made by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Tuesday.

She warned that COVID-19 was “still a public health risk” and that lateral flow and PCR tests for people with Covid symptoms would remain free.

She said those who tested positive for Covid would continue to be told to self-isolate, with the Scottish Government continuing to make self-isolation support payments available to those eligible.

Sturgeon said “self-isolating when positive with a highly infectious virus [and follow-up tracing] remains one of the most basic public health protections we have” that “provides protection for those most at risk of serious illness from COVID, also allowing them to resume a more normal life.”

Photo: Doug Paulley (left) and Fleur Perry

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