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Charities warn Boris Johnson millions of vulnerable people at risk over 'mixed and confusing' coronavirus guidance

Charities have warned the Government's messaging is not clear for vulnerable people

3 min read

Charities have warned millions of vulnerable people are being put at risk over the Government's "mixed and confusing" coronavirus advice.

A group of leading healthcare charities called on ministers to set out "clear, consistent advice" to people who have been told to "shield" themselves because they are most at risk from the impacts of the virus.

It came after Boris Johnson set out the next stage in his "roadmap" for easing lockdown restrictions, including allowing over-70s to meet up with family and friends for the first time since the pandemic began.

But the group, including Macmillan Cancer support, Asthma UK, MS Society and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, said those who were included in the clinically "extremely vulnerable" group had not been given further instructions beyond being told to continue to shield.

Asked about the group at the daily Downing Street press conference on Thursday, Mr Johnson said ministers were "looking carefully at how we can make your life easier" and insisted he would "say more on that soon".

He added: "We want to release you from your captivity, your lockdown, as fast as we as we possibly can."

The warning from the healthcare charities came after it was revealed that people with cancer, liver disease and severe asthma had been notified by text message they had been dropped from the shielding list before their doctors had spoken to them.

The Government were forced to confirm the messages, which also informed people they would no longer be eligible for government food parcels, were legitimate after many believe they were a hoax.

But Phillip Anderson, Head of Policy at the MS Society, said vulnerable people had been left "confused, frustrated and forgotten" by the lack of clear messaging.

"More than 130,000 people live with MS in the UK, and many have been shielding at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. But as restrictions are eased for the rest of the country, vulnerable people have been left feeling confused, frustrated and forgotten," he said.

"Shielding is necessary to protect people, but we’re deeply concerned about the impact it’s having on their wellbeing, and the Government must prioritise their needs – from ensuring they receive food deliveries to looking after their physical and mental health."

Steven McIntosh, Director of Policy, Campaigns & Influencing at Macmillan Cancer Support, added: "The last few months have shown that clear, consistent, well-communicated advice on lockdown is vital for the public. 

"Those who are most vulnerable and often most isolated cannot be forgotten or left behind whilst detailed lockdown plans are announced for the rest of society. 

"Governments must set out guidance and support for people living with conditions like cancer, who face difficulties in accessing food and medicine, are making difficult decisions about returning to work, or, for the most at risk, facing long-term protective lockdown."

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