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6 Months

There are millions (not an exaggeration) of disabled people in the UK who have no other option to stay home right now. At the time of writing, Jasmine Belfiore has been at home for 6 months. Read her first-hand account of living through a pandemic with a chronic illness.

Today is a good day. I sit drinking coffee on the balcony I become ever more grateful for, and remind myself of the good things in my life. My friends, my job, my hobbies. I remain hopeful, because what other options are there for an immunocompromised person in a pandemic?

At the time of writing this, I have been shielding for almost half a year. That's half a year since seeing a person who isn’t my flatmate, a doctor, or a delivery driver. I am lucky to have a housemate right now. Many at-risk people live alone and haven’t seen anyone besides brief encounters with frontline workers in months.

I look forward to the food delivery. Which is sad as a statement but it's the truth. I’m a social person and the lack of human interaction is getting to me at this point. So you see, the food shop is now an *event* in our household. Even this becomes a horrible experience. I am listed as an at-risk person at the place I shop, there is a note with every order asking employees to maintain distance and a similar sign on the door to my flat. Still, they arrive with either no mask, or worse, pull the mask down to talk to me. My autonomy is no longer respected at my own place of residence, let alone in public spaces.

This type of behaviour is occurring on a large scale, and I know this because last week I ventured out of my bubble to get blood tests done. I took every precaution, getting an Uber there and back, fully-masked (I'm so thankful for Uber's compulsory mask policy!). Even in the short walk to the door, so many groups of people entered my personal space. Not a single one wearing a mask. I was already anxious to be leaving the house but at this point I was sweating and verging on a panic attack.

Do all these people not care, or do they just not know? Any kind of infection is a massive toll on my body. A cold sore takes me down for weeks. With the flu, it's more like months. And it has very much been established that covid-19 is a hell of a lot more serious than the flu. There is a very real chance of me being hospitalised and possibly dying if I catch this virus. With people continuing to ignore social distancing and masking advice, going further than my front door is not an option.

UK Mask Network are continuing our efforts to educate the public on the importance and effectiveness of mask-wearing. This project has allowed me to collaborate with some damn intelligent people and ultimately makes me feel like I am doing something to combat the pandemic, but despite this, I often feel very alone in this burden. I have a chronic illness AND a full-time job, which is a miracle on its own (believe me). On top of that, I now donate almost all of my spare time to UK Mask Network. I love it, but it is exhausting.

My world has become so much smaller and it will continue to stay that way until there is a widespread group effort to control the virus. If you wear a mask today, or even tell someone about UK Mask Network, then you have my personal thanks for doing your bit to grant me my freedom.

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