Shielding teenager ‘feels she’s been forgotten’ as Covid rules ease

Katie Steele, who has cerebral palsy, has been shielding for nearly two years during the pandemic.

A teenage girl with cerebral palsy who has been shielding since the start of the coronavirus pandemic feels like “she has been forgotten” with the majority of remaining restrictions set to be lifted next week.

Katie Steele, from Clydebank, has been shielding for nearly two years due to the virus that was first detected in Scotland at the start of 2020.

The 14-year-old is deemed to be high risk of suffering severe symptoms if she catches Covid due to her medical condition.

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Her mum Clare is now urging people to remember vulnerable people like Katie as they get ready to go back to “life before Covid” when most of Scotland’s rules, including social distancing measures and indoor venue crowd limits, end on Monday.

She told STV News: “She just feels that people have forgotten about her and that’s really hard because that’s coming up to two years now.

“There’s still so many things we’d like to do and I’ve kept her safe for nearly two years and we can’t give up now.

“So, while everybody else can move on and go back to kind of life or, you know, some form of life before Covid, there’s still vulnerable children and teenagers and adults like Katie who’s absolutely petrified and still can’t.

“I’m just asking for people to don’t forget about us.

“Please don’t forget that there’s still vulnerable people out there who, you know, are still alive, who haven’t, touch wood, had Covid yet and really don’t want to catch it now.”

Clare has been left particularly worried about the lifting of the requirement for children to wear face masks in schools across England.

She says she doesn’t know how vulnerable children can be protected within that environment.

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She said: “I suppose, hearing the news in England, that kids in school don’t have to wear masks, if you want us to live with Covid, then tell us how to do that.

“Tell me how I can put Katie back to school when the mask-lifting comes up, because it will happen up here as well.

“How can children like Katie go back to school and mix with 1500 other pupils who don’t have masks on and still protect people like Katie within that environment?

“How do you want me to do that? Because I can do it but how can that be safe?”

This week the First Minister announced the remaining restrictions imposed to tackle the Omicron strain – which include caps on crowds at events, social distancing in public places and table service in venue where alcohol is served – will end from Monday.

However, face masks will still be required in public places and Scottish Government guidance continues to urge people to work from home, along with self-isolation requirements and the vaccine passport scheme still in use for some venues.

Face coverings will also continue to be mandatory in secondary schools in Scotland.

Asked when school children will be able to take their masks off, like those in England, Scotland’s national clinical director, Jason Leitch. said: “I honestly don’t know.

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“We’ve got a very, very senior Education Recovery Group (ERG), chaired by (Professor) Linda Bauld, with experts on there in education, of course, but also in public health, we’ve got parent representatives, we’ve got unions, who come up with the consensus science… they then advise the senior clinicians in the Government.”

It is then for Prof Leitch, the chief medical officer and the chief nursing officer to take their advice to the Scottish Government for a decision to be made, he said.

He went on to say the ERG do not want face coverings in secondary schools “unless that is the safest thing to do”.

He added: “They’ll give us advice to remove them when they think it’s appropriate and I think that day is coming.”