'It's very exciting': Vulnerable people given confidence to stop shielding
- Credit: Brittany Woodman
Those at high risk of Covid-19 have spoken of their excitement after being told they no longer need to shield from the virus.
Around 60,000 people in Norfolk have been shielding during the current lockdown, along with 3.7million others across England and Wales.
Some of those have been staying at home to protect themselves and their families since the pandemic began, meaning more than a year of very limited time outdoors and without seeing beloved family members and friends.
One of those people is Laura James, 51, who lives in Norwich Golden Triangle but who has been shielding in Reepham with her mum.
The author has been extra careful as she suffers from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, an inherited condition which affects connective tissues.
She has also had to come to terms with the loss of her father and her mother-in-law, who both died last year.
After the difficulty of the last year, she now feels confident enough to "cautiously stop shielding".
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She said: "I think it's very exciting. With the lovely weather at the moment and longer days there's a real desire there to go out and make the most of it. And I'm very much looking forward to getting my hair cut.
""But I think we need to be careful and remember that social distancing is still really important, as well as washing hands, sanitising and so on. What we don't want – the whole country, shielders and non-shielders – is to end up in lockdown again."
This weekend she is looking forward to meeting her daughter outside, who she hasn't seen in the last year.
"I'll be doing a few other things too, but not too much. We all need to still follow the rules and make sure this is the last time we have to be locked down," she added.
Mrs James has had her first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and, along with lower virus rates across the county, cites it as the reason behind her increased confidence.
She has also been boosted by her decision to shield in the more rural Reepham rather than Norwich, as it has made it easier for her to go outside for exercise without feeling uncomfortable or unsafe.
She said: "When we were in Norwich it was a bit difficult, as walking out the front door there was instantly loads of people.
"Here, I can walk the dog and get out into the countryside which has really helped. During the first shielding period I didn't leave my bedroom very often, which was hell."
Another person who has had her confidence boosted by her Covid jab is Sue Lawrence, 74, who lives in Thorpe St Andrew.
She was diagnosed with Huntingdon's disease five years ago, making her more vulnerable to the virus, but this lockdown has been more difficult for her than the last.
She said: "It's been a long time – over a year now. I really was beginning to get a little bit depressed sometimes. Getting up in the morning, if you've nowhere to go then you don't really want to get dressed.
"And this time last year we had the sun and really nice weather, but other than the last few days we haven't had that so much this time in the winter."
She and her husband both received their first doses of the vaccine in February, and will soon get their second.
Now that they no longer need to shield, Mrs Lawrence is looking forward to spending more time with friends and with her two young grandchildren.
She said: "I think [the vaccine] does make me feel more safe this time, and once I've had the second one it will be even better. Seeing family and friends is something I've been looking forward to for a long time.
"I suppose I am a little nervous. I'm very wary of not getting too close to people.
"I'm going to take my grandchildren to the park. They're nine and 10, and they haven't been anywhere at all other than to school. But even around them I know I need to be careful, keep using wipes and so on."
• Are you going to be seeing family and friends for the first time in a year? Or are you going to continue shielding through choice? If you'd like to share your experiences, email: email@example.com.