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The Government should give financial support and clear guidance to people with blood cancer

21st Sep 2020

United Kingdom

Following this morning’s press conference from Sir Patrick Vallance and Chris Whitty on the rising coronavirus rate, we are calling for the Government to give urgent financial support for workers with blood cancer and to give clear guidance to everyone living with the condition.

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There are 200,000 people with blood cancer who are “extremely clinically vulnerable”, and with blood cancer increasing risk of dying from the coronavirus by more than almost any other health condition, we are urging the Government to:

– Immediately cover 80% of the salaries of people with blood cancer who cannot work from home or whose doctor says they cannot safely go to work.

– Urgently give updated guidance to the “extremely clinically vulnerable” group, covering whether they should still be going outside, going to shops, and sending children to school.

At the moment, people who work in places where social distancing is not practical (for example, cafes, restaurants and factories) can only stay at home if their employer agrees to it, and they are only eligible for furlough if they were included in the original scheme. This has left many people with blood cancer facing a choice between their health and their finances. With infection rates now rising quickly, we warn that unless the Government acts now, we are likely to start seeing an increasing number of workers with blood cancer dying as a result of catching the coronavirus at work.

As well as specific issues around work, people with blood cancer are feeling increasingly anxious about the rising rate, they do not yet have guidance on what precautions they should be taking to protect themselves against the virus. The charity wants Ministers to explain these out clearly when they set out the wider measures for how to reduce the spread of the virus.

Gemma Peters, Chief Executive, said: “Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance have set out just how worrying the situation has become, and yet there are people with blood cancer who have travelled to work today because they feel they cannot afford not to. The science that the Government says it is following is now clear that people with blood cancer are at particularly high risk of dying from the coronavirus, and so with the virus spreading it needs to do more to protect workers with blood cancer or we will see deaths that are entirely preventable.

“The solution to this is simple – the Government needs to cover 80% of people’s wages if their doctor says it is not safe for them to go to work. This needs to be announced in the next couple of days, because the pandemic has already taught us that we need to be ahead of the curve rather than acting when it is too late.

“As well as financial support for people who are working, the Government needs to give clear guidance on what people with blood cancer should be doing to protect themselves. There have been times when the shielding group has felt like an afterthought in the Government’s considerations, and given the vulnerability of people with blood cancer this must not happen again. Whether it’s going to the shops, going for a walk, or sending their children to school, people need to know what they should and shouldn’t be doing, and the Government also needs to explain how it give them the support they need to stay safe.”

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