Omicron variant: Clinically Extremely Vulnerable must not be ignored any longer say Liberal Democrats as they announce five-point plan
Newcastle Liberal Democrats have today called for urgent measures to support the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV), including a formal return and improvement of the shielding programme.
The Government has so far failed to announce any specific measures for those who were classed as CEV in spite of their increased risk of serious illness from Covid. It comes after more cases of the newly discovered 'Omicron' variant of Covid were reported in the UK.
The Liberal Democrats are calling for a five-point action plan to support the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable. This would include the return of official centralised guidance, so that the 3.8 million vulnerable people on the 'Shielded Patient List' have clarity on what is safe for them to do and where to seek the tailored clinical advice and support they need. The previous shielding programme ended on September 15, yet recent Office of National Statistics analysis found that one in five CEV people have continued to follow previous shielding guidance.
The party is also calling for a resolution to the fiasco around providing a third primary dose for the immuno-suppressed, and the naming of a Minister to have overall coordinating responsibility for all CEV matters and meeting patient groups monthly. It comes after the latest official figures showed around 100,000 or a quarter of extremely vulnerable people are yet to have their third jab.
Newcastle Liberal Democrats' Spokesperson for Health and Social Care, Dr Wendy Taylor, said:
"It's often said that how a society treats its most vulnerable is the measure of its humanity, but if that's the case, then this Government does not measure up.
"People who are clinically extremely vulnerable and their families are incredibly worried about the news of a new variant on our shores. For too long, the Government has ignored these people, their concerns around the vaccine programme and the lack of guidance and support.
"The Government must not ignore them any longer: it must be proactive in tackling this new variant and protect those most at risk. The clinically vulnerable deserve clear guidance and support from ministers instead of being treated as an afterthought.
"The decision to end the shielding programme - when many continued to shield - left our most vulnerable feeling like the rug had been pulled out from underneath them. It's high time the Government put support measures back in place, including getting on top of the utter mess surrounding third primary doses and introducing a shielding programme that genuinely supports those who need it."
The Liberal Democrats' have a five-point plan to support the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable and address the potential threat posed by the Omicron variant:
1. Urgently address the chaos and confusion surrounding the roll-out of the third primary vaccines for the immuno-suppressed
2. Appoint a Minister to have overall coordinating responsibility for all CEV matters and establish monthly meetings for patient groups with that Minister
3. Issue and promote updated official guidance for the clinically extremely vulnerable on the current risks, including those posed by Omicron, and how best to protect themselves
4. Create a new register of the clinically extremely vulnerable, t which includes those who are newly CEV plus anyone who needs to be re-classified as this as evidence of the new variant emerges
5. Establish a supported shielding programme to provide proper pay, not just sick pay, for those who cannot work from home, and mental health support and befriending services for those shielding and suffering from loneliness and isolation
According to the ONS, around 22% of people (c. 814,000 out of 3.7m) considered clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) said they continue to follow previous shielding guidance.
Around 500,000 of those who are recognised as being immuno-suppressed are eligible for a third jab before a booster, but the scheme has been a mess. Some are unable to access a third dose in spite of a national commitment for these to be offered by 11 October. Some of those who have had their third dose have had it wrongly recorded as their booster jab, meaning they face problems in getting the booster.
The Observer has reported that a quarter of those with severely suppressed immunity, or 100,000 people, have still not had a third vaccination.