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‘Clinically vulnerable and forgotten by Boris but won’t stop hugging my family’

Ahead of Freedom Day on Monday, Boris Johnson’s government has once again left us shielders to wither at home – are we supposed to isolate ourselves from society forever, asks retired nurse and grandmother of four Rachel Jones

Retired nurse Rachel Jones says Freedom Day is anything but for her and the other 3.7 million vulnerable people in the UK

Being separated from my young grandchildren for the best part of a year was hell – and I’m not willing to go through that again.

I live with two life-limiting conditions and got the NHS letter early on in the pandemic telling me I was classed as extremely clinically vulnerable and needed to shield.

Now people like me who have made huge sacrifices to keep ourselves and others safe have been abandoned by Boris Johnson’s government.

While you might be looking forward to next Monday’s Freedom Day, for me it’s more like personal deprivation day. There will be even less freedom for me if mask-wearing is scrapped and social-distancing dropped, because once again I’ll be putting my health at risk if I go inside shops, cinemas and cafes with unvaccinated and infectious strangers.

How do you feel about Freedom Day on Monday 19 July? Have your say in the comments below

Retired nurse Rachel Jones with her dog Digby


Rachel Jones)

I was just starting to feel happier to go out with these rules in place, now I feel unhappy again because we’re going to have to make up our own rules and stay away again. We’ve got to isolate ourselves away again from society to stay safe. If the rules were working, why take them away?

As a proud grandma to four beautiful grandchildren, my heart has ached every time we’ve been separated, whether that was because hugs were banned, like in the first lockdown, or every time their school bubbles have burst because of a positive case.

And I’m sorry but I’m just not willing to cut off my only lifeline to normal society. The loneliness and misery I feel at being away from my family is, to me, far worse than the risk of being hospitalised with covid.

My world, and the world of everyone who’s shielding, gets very, very small. The really important things to you is family, friends and your hobbies, but if you can’t do those things then life isn’t worth living, is it.

Rachel is angry with the government for abandoning people like her who have been told not to mingle indoors with others


Rachel Jones)

Rachel aged 18 as a student nurse in 1980


Rachel Jones)

I couldn’t go through that again. Even if I do get covid, that’s just how it is. I can’t ever not see my family anymore, they’re what give my life meaning.

So when you say ‘Freedom Day’, to me it’s not. It’s the wrong term for me because it’s still a prison. There’s 3.7 million vulnerable people like me in this country – all of us will be experiencing the same fears.

I feel like if I catch covid now, the last 16 months of shielding has all been for nothing.

But I’ll still be wearing my mask after Freedom Day – it won’t protect me but I still want to protect others. I feel a responsibility to do that; it’s for everyone else really – that’s why you get vaccinated, it’s not just for you but for everyone else.

For me I’ve weighed it all up. I’ll wear my mask, I’ll keep away from indoor areas as much as possible, I’m going to socialise outside and keep up the hand-washing, then I’ve done all I can.

But I won’t ever stop hugging my grandkids.

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