Published: 06:00, 19 July 2021
| Updated: 15:26, 19 July 2021
For many, today's easing of Covid restrictions and the end of legal requirements to wear masks and social distance are reasons to celebrate – but not everyone is relishing the prospect.
Carlie Pleasant, from Sittingbourne, has cystic fibrosis and when lockdown was first implemented in March last year, she was classed as "extremely vulnerable".
Carlie Pleasant talks about the easing of restrictions and why she plans to continue to stay away from the supermarket
Her condition means she is particularly susceptible to chest infections that require hospital treatment, which has not been available through much of the pandemic.
It was therefore crucial she avoided not just Covid but any other coughs and sneezes as well, so the mum-of-one has dared not venture outside her family bubble ever since.
Now, while others might be keen to make the most of their perceived 'freedom', Carlie, understandably, said she would be adopting a more cautious approach: "I am still going to be really careful because I can't afford to catch Covid."
If the worst was to happen? "It could lead to quite a catastrophic outcome," she said.
"I've literally been on my own in my little family bubble for the last 18 months, so it's going to take quite a lot of confidence for me to go out and go back into the general population," she added.
"I've cancelled a holiday this year. We're not going to go on the family holiday we usually go on.
"I am still not going to supermarkets.
"I'm just being sensible and keeping to the best plan I can think of that will keep me well.
"It doesn't sound like many people are going to continue to wear masks but, if I do go into the general population, I will be keeping mine on."
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic condition, so something Carlie was born with. It impacts the whole body but most commonly the chest and digestive system.
"When I get a cough it turns into an infection immediately. I find it very hard to shift that infection with normal antibiotics," Carlie explained. "I usually end up going into hospital for prolonged periods of time.
"I also can't digest any fats. My digestive system doesn't work at all."
The answer is to take enzymes before eating and drinking, which means consuming 35 to 40 tablets a day. With other medications, Carlie's daily total is closer to 70.
Among them is a "wonder drug" which, after a delay, she started taking last year.
"At one point we have to take a leap of faith and see what happens when we do start mixing and things get back to normal. I am not ready to take that step yet..."
"For quality of life it's drastically improved in the last year when I started the wonder drug Kaftrio," said Carlie, who had previously spear-headed a successful campaign to improve treatment of the condition.
"I've been out of hospital a year. I don't know if that's because I've been shielding as well, so I haven't been around bugs and germs, but it's doing wonders for me so far, so I'm very grateful."
But the future is uncertain.
What has been decided is that, for the time being, her employers at Maidstone hospital have said she can continue to work from home.
"I do not know when the right point is for Boris Johnson and the government to say it's the end," Carlie said.
"At one point we have to take a leap of faith and see what happens when we do start mixing and things get back to normal.
"I am not ready to take that step yet."
She added: "I am a little apprehensive about what will happen.
"My main concern is people around me in the shops will just think that it's gone and that it doesn't exist any more, whereas at the moment everybody is still being cautious – but I am not sure how long that will last."
Government guidance for people who, like Carlie, are on the "extremely vulnerable" list, on what to do now restrictions have been eased is yet to materialise.
"I don't want it to be a case of being thrown out to the wolves. No guidance – just hope for the best..."
"I had so many letters, so many texts - 'Stay indoors, don't go outdoors', 'If you have to, you can go for a half-hour walk'. They were sending us food parcels.
"The letters actually said 'You are classed as extremely vulnerable. You are likely to become highly unwell'. So that got drummed into me for so many months. And now – nothing.
"Yes, we are double jabbed but there are still cases of Covid out there for people that are double jabbed.
"The pandemic hasn't gone away.
"I don't want it to be a case of being thrown out to the wolves. No guidance – just hope for the best."
For advice if you have or are caring for someone who has cystic fibrosis, click here for information provided by the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.