Charity insists blind people in Cornwall should be added to COVID-19 vulnerable list

4 minute read
Charity insists blind people in Cornwall should be added to COVID-19 vulnerable list

Published at 4:00pm 11th April 2020. (Updated at 7:25am 14th April 2020)

Thousands of people in Cornwall who are blind or visually impaired should be included on the Government’s list of those most at risk from coronavirus, according to a charity.

The Royal National Institute of Blind People has warned that some people with sight loss are struggling to get food as they have been excluded from priority access to online shopping.

NHS Digital data shows that 3,420 people in Cornwall were registered as being blind or partially sighted in March 2017 – the latest figures available.

Of those, 1,755 were recorded as being blind or severely sight impaired.

The Government recently produced a list of 1.5 million people at higher risk of serious illness if they contract COVID-19.

Supermarkets, pharmacies and other businesses are working to provide those included on the list with deliveries of essential items.

The Development Director at the RNIB, says the Government has “got to include blind people in the definition" of those who need extra help.

“People are scared and worried about whether they are going to get food or medication. This is what is coming through our helpline.

“They’re literally saying ‘how am I going to feed myself?’ We’ve got people ringing on behalf of parents because they can’t reach them.

“Blind or visually impaired people need to be included on this list. In some cases, it’s literally a matter of people going hungry.

"I would ask people making those decisions to close their eyes and then think about what they would do in these circumstances.”

Keith Valentine, development director at the RNIB

Cornwall Council insists that it is supporting communities across the Duchy, including those who are blind or visually impaired and are working with Volunteer Cornwall to ensure residents who need help during the pandemic receive the support they need. 

The Government’s ‘shielded’ group is a specific category of people who have underlying health conditions which make them at high risk of severe illness if they catch Coronavirus.

Together with Volunteer Cornwall and partner organisations such as iSight Cornwall, we are helping both vulnerable residents who are being shielded, as well as those who are not in this specific category but may still need with help with things like food shopping and medicine collection - including people who are visually impaired. 

If you need help but have not received a letter advising you that you are in the shielded category, you can either contact Cornwall Council on 0300 1231118 or, or Volunteer Cornwall on 01872 266988 or by emailing

Volunteer Cornwall has over 3,000 volunteers and around 280 community groups covering the whole of Cornwall, and will also be drawing on the NHS Volunteer database, so no-one has to go without the help they need.

Spokesperson from Cornwall Council

The RNIB has launched an online petition calling on the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs George Eustice to work with businesses to ensure blind people are able to buy the goods they need online.

Across the South West, 34,195 people were registered as blind or partially sighted in March 2017.

“We are working quickly to support people who do not fall into the category of being clinically vulnerable but still need help getting essential food supplies.

“This could include those who are elderly, disabled or have health conditions that make it difficult for them to get the food they need.

“We are speaking to food retailers, delivery organisations and volunteer groups to help prioritise those individuals to access essential food.

“Wherever possible, people should continue to rely on friends, family and wider community support."

Spokesperson at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. 

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