'No end is in sight.' Living with Covid means a life of lockdown for England's most vulnerable

England scrapped its legal Covid-19 restrictions in February, as part of the UK government's "living with Covid plan."

London (CNN)Deepti Gurdasani has spent the past two years debunking Covid-19 myths and misinformation on TV and online. Her work as a clinical epidemiologist means she's well-placed to talk about coronavirus. But she also has a deeply personal understanding of the pandemic's dangers.

Gurdasani is one of 3.7 million people in England living with underlying diseases or pre-existing chronic health conditions who were told by authorities to "shield" at home and minimize all face-to-face contact on March 23 2020, as the UK went into its first lockdown at the start of the pandemic.
She says she has not been into a shop, restaurant or movie theater -- or any other indoor space, aside from her own home -- in the two years since, because she fears catching the virus could be fatal.
    In order to protect Gurdasani, who is immunosuppressed due to the medication she takes for inflammatory bowel disease, her family has also had to make sacrifices.
      Deepti Gurdasani is immunosuppressed. She says she has not been into any indoor space, aside from her own home, in two years for fear of catching Covid.
      "I am a chronically ill, disabled mom who brings her daughter home for lunch every day from school, so she doesn't breathe the same air as 100 other people," she told CNN. "I have had to take my daughter out of her gym, ballet and swimming classes."
      Some would view this as excessive. For Gurdasani, it is the only way to ensure that her 6-year-old daughter grows up with both parents: "It's not fair for her, but I have to weigh that up against the risk of her growing up without a mom."
      Just weeks after England lifted all legal coronavirus restrictions, Covid rates are rising again. New Covid-19 cases were up 20.4% in the UK last week, compared with the week before, while hospitalizations were up 21.7% over the same period.
        And Gurdasani and others like her are seeing their worlds shrink once more because, for them, Covid-19 remains dangerous. Two years on from the UK's first lockdown, many vulnerable people fear they face some form of permanent isolation as governments and wider society move on without them.

        'Living with Covid'

        Even before the pandemic, immunocompromised and vulnerable people had a higher risk of infection from circulating viruses.
        Covid-19 poses a more significant threat. It is deadlier than regular respiratory viruses, it can spread at a higher rate, and infections can be asymptomatic -- meaning you can't always tell if someone is unwell.
        To halt the spread of the virus, the British government introduced a bundle of anti-Covid measures including a free mass testing program, isolation rules for those infected and shielding to protect the most vulnerable.
        The UK went into its first lockdown March 23 2020.
        But following the vaccine and booster rollout, all remaining legal Covid-19 restrictions were scrapped last month as part of the UK government's "living with Covid plan."
        "Restrictions pose a heavy toll on our economy, our society, our mental well-being and the life chances of our children. And we do not need to pay that cost any longer," Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Parliament at the end of February.