As lockdown measures are eased in Wales, many people living with diabetes and their families are concerned about venturing out more and returning to work and school. Although not officially shielding, people with diabetes are in the “clinically vulnerable” group. That’s why we're supporting the Distance Aware Project along with other charities, companies and organisations.
The initiative is the brainchild of anaesthetics trainee, Helen Iliff, who works at Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil. She realised the need for a “polite prompt” to others to maintain social distancing and protect people who were shielding by displaying a “Distance Aware symbol”, as a protective yellow shield.
The project was adopted by NHS Wales and endorsed by Welsh Government, after healthcare think tank Bevan Commission supported the idea. The initiative has now also been endorsed but the Department of Health and Social Care in England.
Helen, who was herself shielding at home said:
“We are thrilled that Diabetes UK Cymru are supporting us and that, this campaign keeps on growing and resonating with people, so that everyone feels we are looking after each other, because maintaining social distance is everyone’s responsibility.”
Dai Williams, our National Director, said:
“We are hearing from people living with diabetes that they are anxious about the return to “normal”, some feel vulnerable because of age, because of other health conditions and compromised immune systems and also because of being at a higher risk of developing a serious illness with coronavirus.
We are proud to be part of this scheme to continue protecting those who are concerned, as restrictions are lifted in Wales and more places are now open and crowded. That is also why we keep on fighting for protections on extending furloughing for those at high risk and food security to address the issues facing people living with diabetes through this pandemic.”
We are asking the UK government to to urgently review all of the emerging evidence and data about the risks of the coronavirus to people with diabetes, to inform their policies around social distancing, employment guidance, and any measures around easing lockdown.
Wendy Gane, Diabetes UK Cymru volunteer and chair of the All Wales Diabetes Patient Reference Group, voiced the concerns of people living with diabetes:
“I have been contacted by a lot of people who are extremely worried about a second wave of coronavirus and are struggling with anxiety and depression. The mental health support we get is a postcode lottery anyway and we find the information on the risks confusing. We are now noticing people are not adhering to social distance and this can have a serious impact on vulnerable people living with diabetes. For us, to raise awareness of social distancing and other measures of protection is crucial.”