Isolation diary: Exiting lockdown?

The Government is exploring the options for easing lockdown and will be announcing their plans next Sunday. The lifting of some restrictions will no doubt be welcomed by most people and we can expect some slightly late, but exuberant,  VE Day celebrations.

However, no-one should forget that, whatever the new normal is, it will make no difference to a large number of people.

Everyone over the age of 70 was told to self-isolate for 12 weeks from 21st March, which takes us up to 13th June.

In addition 1.5 million people have been ask to take the more stringent shielding precautions for 12 weeks. The first wave of those letters were issued during the week when lock down began, and a second wave was sent out around 2 weeks later. So those people can expect to be shielded in self-isolation until the end of June, at the earliest.

To be honest, I expect the restrictions on vulnerable people and over 70s to remain much longer, which means that all of us will continue to need help from the community for many months yet. So please continue with all the big-hearted things you have been doing, and plan to do them for many more weeks.

Update 05/05/2020

Following some discussion in the comments I would like to clarify the situation for over 70s.

I have checked back on various media and Government sources and it is clear that around the middle of March the Government was warning us that all over 70s, regardless of health, would be asked to self-isolate for up to 4 months. Matt Hancock appeared on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday 15th March and said precisely that. Everyone over 70 or with specific health issues was classed as clinically vulnerable.

In the event, 12 weeks or 4 months of self-isolation were never actually applied to all over 70s, only to a subset. Barely a week after Matt Hancock’s announcement everyone was put in lockdown. Special arrangements were being made for a newly defined group of people referred to as clinically extremely vulnerable. They were to be shielded for 12 weeks – shielding being an extreme form of lockdown in which people were not supposed to leave their homes. If they shared a home with people who were not shielding then they were advised to distance themselves by staying in one room and not sharing a bathroom.

The wider group who were clinically vulnerable, but not extremely so, were told: “You should take particular care to minimise contact with others outside your household.”

My main point still applies. When lockdown is eased there will still be a substantial group of people still in self-isolation who will need support from the community.  People who are extremely vulnerable will probably be shielded for a long time. At the same time, many of the clinically vulnerable and over 70s will choose to remain in self-isolation in order to minimise the risk of catching the virus.



Please note

We have been in full self-isolation since 16th March to protect my husband whose immune system is compromised.

If you are in self-isolation then join the Lib Dems in self-isolation Facebook group.

You can find my previous Isolation diaries here.


* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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  • Tony Greaves 4th May '20 - 5:39pm

    Actually the advice to people over 70 has varied significantly. It started off being “self-isolate” as opposed to the “Stay at home” for people in general. But I guess the government’s polling showed this was not a popular line among a lot of their supporters so it was quietly dropped from the mantras I favour of the seriously vulnerable. There’s been a new spate of rumours that over-70s will be automatically excluded form measures to “ease the lockdown” and this has resulted in a renewed set of complaints (the Guardian letters page led on them for two successive days). It is of course complete nonsense based on the crudest use of statistics and it is not enforceable. I envisage helping to organise the longest ever demo through the streets of London as many thousands of over-70s march two by two and 6 feet apart!

  • @Tony Greaves – you are quite correct. The advice for over 70s has varied a bit. Sadly, whatever they decide for that group, in my case I will carry on shielding because my husband fits into that category. It’s much easier for us to both adopt the same practices, otherwise we would have to keep separate within our own home!

  • To be honest, the “advice” to over 70s was never clear cut, “self isolate”. There were clearly elements of the Government who wanted to say that, but (I don’t think) anybody ever issued such simple words. They knew, even in March that it would go down like a lead balloon! Words were wrapped in a lot of obfuscation on the topic.

    The shielding group has also been ambiguous – and I speak as someone who has a part of the family in this group. It started by us being told there were 1.5 million in the group, then suddenly “up to” was added, then it was realised that it only started with around 700,000, and has gradually gathered more as the weeks have progressed.

    How this has gone and the (non) deployment of volunteers to assist these people has also been a Dad’s Army style shambles too.

  • David Evershed 5th May '20 - 1:20am

    My wife and I are over 70 so have tracked the government advice very closely.

    The only over 70s who were ever told to self isolate for 12 weeks and not go outside (shielding) were those sent a letter to say they were extremely vulnerable because of underlying problems such as diabetes or heart and cancer conditions in the last two years.

    Under 70’s with underlying health conditions were also sent a letter to stay indoors for 12 weeks (shielding).

    Over 70s without the underlying conditions have never been required to stay indoors for 12 weeks. However, they have been advised to pay particular attention to the usual hand washing and two metre rules as well as minimising trips fpr essentials0.

  • John Marriott 5th May '20 - 9:21am

    I see that Sir Graham Brady, the extravagantly brylcremed Chair of the 1922 Committee reckons that the public has been “a little too willing to stay at home”. So, let’s drive ‘em out to save the economy. (Question: Whose economy would that be?)

    While they say that the Germans, for example, “live to work”, we Brits apparently “work to live”, and, under present circumstances, who can blame us? I’ll drink to that. However, all those such as Brady and IDS, not forgetting, on the other side of the pond, a certain occupant of the White House and his gun tottin’ buddies, advocating a swift removal of the lockdown, should be careful not to send us unprepared and unprotected into the world of work again, that is those of us who, given our age, should probably be gainfully employed. After you, Sir Graham…

  • @Tim13, @David Evershed – I have checked back on the sources and it seems that in mid March we were all being warned in Government media statements that over 70s would be required to self-isolate for 12 weeks. In the event the advice was toned down a bit and over 70s were told to take stringent social distancing measures instead. So I accept that I wasn’t quite accurate. We decided to self-isolate anyway because of my husband’s health issues.

    The latest guidance, dated 1st May, emphasises that all over 70s should be treated as clinically vulnerable along with those under 70 with underlying medical conditions. They are advised to “take particular care to minimise contact with others outside your household”, but no mention of 12 weeks. However many of them will still want to stay at home after lockdown is lifted and we should be aware that they will still need support.

    The extremely vulnerable groups who have received the shielding letters (including my husband) were told to avoid contact for 12 weeks, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that time is extended. I can’t see how they can expose themselves to risk until a vaccine is available.

  • Geoff Walker 5th May '20 - 10:37am

    The letter (undated) from 10 Downing Street enclosed a UK Government leaflet that makes clear that “those who are 70 and over, have an underlying health condition or are pregnant” must stay at home.

  • @Geoff Walker – Yes, the leaflet does say that, but doesn’t mention 12 weeks. That time frame was prescribed for the extremely vulnerable a week or two later.

  • Peter Hirst 5th May '20 - 6:19pm

    If it’s true that self isolation is not mandatory, the vulnerable need to know the level of infection and immunity in their community to make considered decisions on how to exit when it becomes possible.

  • David Garlick 7th May '20 - 5:26pm

    Just been for a daily exercise walk. Local Park very busy. Local roads very much busier than last few weeks. Social distancing with walkers coming in the opposite direction in the park worked well until a numpty bloke on a bike road straight through the gap we had created. He had a hard hat on but not certain this would stop the transition or acquisition of a virus!
    Bungling Boris was a disaster at the Foreign Office, and by announcing a relaxation just before a Bank Holliday weekend he has given ‘virtual’ permission for all the isolation doubters to anticipate their own expectations of a relaxation and start today. Bungling Boris as PM strikes again.
    We should be calling for his resignation sooner rather than later.

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