Living through a global pandemic has been particularly hard on everybody. However, for myself, being considered particularly vulnerable to Coronavirus has been the hardest thing to deal with in the last few months.
At the start of March, I was living in the Netherlands and enjoying my Year Abroad. I’d just got back from a trip to Berlin and aside from myself and my friends trying our upmost to wash our hands at every given opportunity, and our hostel being covered in posters with warnings about the virus, life for me was normal. However, by March 15th, the Dutch government had announced the closure of all universities, and I was on a plane back to Heathrow in the hope that I could return to the Netherlands in a short while when things were safer. Obviously, looking back, that seems like a very naïve hope.
A few days before the UK’s national lockdown, I received a letter from the government stating I was ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ to Coronavirus, and that it was best if I stayed inside for at least 12 weeks. The letter instructed me to not go on walks, not go to the supermarket, and to severely minimise any contact I had with members of my own household. We were living through something horrific and even though I was in the same household as her, I was not allowed to hug my Mum.
At first, I didn’t believe my medical condition would mean I would be considered of higher risk to the virus. I have a genetic disorder which barely impacts my day-to-day life. I take no medication for it and I see a doctor every 2 years. Although it impacted me as a child a lot, I have only been hospitalised for it as an adult once, and that wasn’t particularly serious. Considering the main symptoms of Covid-19 are to do with the lung and respiratory issues, and my genetic disorder is not related to any of these things, I assumed I did not have to worry. However, there are of course several potential impacts this virus can have on people which we learn more about every day, and ultimately, I am at greater risk of hospitalisation if I catch Corona.
My first few weeks of shielding were particularly hard, and I struggled a lot. I’d gone from living abroad and taking weekly trips across Europe to sitting in my bedroom in my parents’ house, extremely worried about what impact catching Coronavirus could have on me. I considered myself a healthy 20-year-old, but I was now receiving letters asking if I wanted my shopping delivered, as leaving the house was deemed unsafe for me to do. The world outside my house suddenly felt like a very scary place.
Although for many, being limited to only going on walks and visiting the supermarket seemed like hell, I desperately wished I could go and do a weekly shop. Every week my phone would remind me how many hours a day I was spending on it and I was horrified, but I struggled to motivate myself to do anything else. Eventually, although not recommended, I did allow myself to take some walks in my local area as a means of coping. As the number of cases and daily deaths have reduced, my life has been able to regain some normality. However, there is of course still a likelihood that I may be told to shield again sometime in the future if a second wave ever comes.
It’s important to remember that there are over two million people shielding in the UK, and that group includes people with a huge variation of medical conditions and ages. Whilst many of those not shielding are having their life return to some sense of normal, albeit a very strange normal, for those who do have reason to believe the virus will be life-threatening to them, life may not reach a level of normality for a very long time.