The long term impact of inventing the concept o

I want to suggest a key outcome of the pandemic, which will be both a challenge and an opportunity, is the concept of shielding and the cohort of shielders. 2 million people have spent around 12 months (assuming the requirement to shield ends around 29 March in line with the roadmap – although this is not confirmed at time of writing). They are a diverse and complex cohort of people, ranging from those with very severe disabilities whose lives are dominated by managing their condition through to those who live entirely ‘normal’ lives but are immunosuppressed. A further group of people were added to the Shielding List in February 2021, who will have a rather different relationship with the concept of shielding given that they have lived through the pandemic not shielding – although possibly being quite cautious depending on their awareness of the risks they were facing. I think shielding creates some key challenges for society: When shielding ‘ends’ what will life be like for the cohort? Will they go back to ‘normal’ lives and have nothing more to do with one another as a cohort? Will they find a common identity valuable and seek to continue it? Will we find ourselves debating whether shielders should shield during every winter, for example, to reduce flu deaths, or as part of potential limited restrictions on life when covid has reached an endemic state? Should shielders receive priority access to forms of healthcare in the way they have been prioritised for vaccines? If they are to return to work, social lives and other aspects of normality, what support will they require? While much of that support will be practical and direct, I think it might also need to include mental health support, socialisation and employment support.




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