The Covid public inquiry should produce an interim report that would suggest measures to improve the safety of disabled people who continue to be at far higher risk of severe harm from coronavirus, campaigners have urged.
The campaign group Clinically Vulnerable Families (CVF) made the call at a preliminary hearing of the inquiry’s third module, which will examine health systems across the UK.
CVF told the inquiry, through its barrister Adam Wagner, that for the half a million people who are clinically vulnerable, clinically extremely vulnerable and severely immuno-suppressed – the “forgotten half million” – the pandemic was “by no means over”.
CVF represents people in those groups across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and has been granted core participant status in the third module.
Wagner called on the inquiry’s chair, Baroness [Heather] Hallett, to publish an interim inquiry report that improves the safety of those with a higher risk of severe harm from COVID-19, addresses those “ongoing risks”, and helps with clinically vulnerable people’s “reintegration into society”.
Wagner said: “For many clinically vulnerable people, there has been no freedom day.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is not over. They still remain at serious risk from contracting the virus, which is still of course at large and we are subject to a series of waves in each year.”
He added: “Life has moved on for the vast majority of the population and yet the clinically vulnerable continue to have to shield.
“They are denied free treatments, such as Evusheld, and timely antivirals.
“They are also denied basic public health protections, such as HEPA filters in public buildings and reasonable adjustments at work, which would make them able to live more fulfilling lives out and about rather than locked in their homes.”
He told the inquiry the people CVF represents are about 7.5 times more likely to die from Covid than the general population and are more than five times as likely to develop Long Covid, while many continue to shield from the virus.
Jacqueline Carey, a counsel to the inquiry, told the inquiry earlier that Baroness Hallett had informed the prime minister last year that she wanted to publish interim reports so she could “ensure that any urgent recommendations could be published and considered in a timely manner”.
Carey said the CVF group had urged Baroness Hallett to produce an interim report with recommendations that would improve the safety of those at higher risk of severe harm from Covid-19.
She said: “Whilst the topics and areas for inclusion in any interim report or reports are a matter for you to consider, I am sure this is precisely what you had in mind when you made this recommendation to the prime minister.”
Carey also told the inquiry that module three would – among many other areas – examine the use of “do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation” (DNACPR) instructions during the pandemic, and how discussions about DNACPR were held with patients and their relatives.
It will also examine the impact of shielding on those who are clinically vulnerable and clinically extremely vulnerable, and the identification, diagnosis and treatment of Long Covid.
A note from the editor:
Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations.
Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009.
Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS…