Ending mask-wearing leaves vulnerable millions 'no alternative', warns MS charity founder

7 July 2021, 19:08

By Tim Dodd

An MS charity founder has hit out at the PM's comments that opposing the July 19 freedom day requires a 'clear and credible alternative', saying there is 'no credible alternative' for millions who are immunosuppressed and vulnerable to Covid.

The comments were made by Alison Coates, founder and trustee of AIMS, a charity which protects the health and wellbeing of UK patients suffering from Multiple Sclerosis and Autoimmune disease.

The conversation comes as the government announced its five-point plan for "living with Covid" after July 19, which includes an end to the one-metre plus rule on social distancing and the legal obligation to wear a face mask.

Ms Coates began by telling Shelagh: "It does seem to be this idea of the masks in public places that is getting people in our community very, very nervous. 

"We've got four million people in the UK who have an autoimmune condition... We've got several groups in the autoimmune community who really are still extremely vulnerable because either they're on particular medication which means the vaccine isn't producing the antibodies for them - something like Gilenya for MS. 

"We've got people who've had HSCT - a bone marrow transplant - that wipes out your immune system so you're very vulnerable for twelve months.

"We've got some people who've had HSCT who are frightened to revaccinate in case it kicks their MS out of remission after they've halted it."

Ms Coates then said many people with an autoimmune disease are on DMDs - disease modifying drugs - which suppress the immune system and leave them vulnerable to Covid.

Read more: Lifting restrictions will make public take Covid threat less seriously, study suggests

Shelagh then asked: "From their perspective, you seem to be saying it seems like chaos to them, not calm?"

"It does," replied Ms Coates.

"I was speaking to a lady this morning and she said I'm worried I'm not ever going to be able to go out anywhere ever again.

"There's a lot of anxiety, there's a lot of depression - this is really impacting people on a mental health level as well as worrying about their physical health."

Read more: Chris Whitty warns young people face 'significant amount more long Covid' this summer

Shelagh then remarked: "The restrictions are causing all kinds of stresses and strains on people's lives, but that isn't a reason to ignore the people you've just described."

"There's something that Boris Johnson said this morning in Prime Minister's questions that I found quite interesting, he said if you're going to oppose these measures of relaxation then you need a credible and clear alternative, but what is the credible and clear alternative for our vulnerable in society?"

Mr Johnson was keen to emphasise that he has not yet made a decision on whether the planned easing of restrictions will go ahead on July 19.

A decision will be announced a week before, on July 12.