Governments should consider several steps to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities, including removing individuals from institutions and granting testing priority, according to guidance from the United Nations.

In an 11-page document issued this week, the U.N. Human Rights Office said that countries and other stakeholders ought to do more to address the needs of people with disabilities who are being inordinately affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

“People with disabilities not only face greater risks from COVID-19, they also are disproportionately affected by response measures, including lockdowns. To address this double risk, we need to be engaging persons with disabilities in the COVID-19 response, and adapting plans to address their needs,” said U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

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The guidance urges nations to discharge people with disabilities from institutions to live with family or friends, when possible, given the “heightened risk of contracting COVID-19” in congregate settings, a move already taken by Switzerland and Spain.

For those who remain in institutions, there should be priority testing and preventive measures in place, the document indicates.

Meanwhile, countries should ensure that staff supporting people with disabilities in the community are exempt from stay-at-home orders, individuals with disabilities are not restricted from being outside and protective equipment is available, the guidance states.

Nations should also consider increasing disability benefits to account for extra costs related to the pandemic, offering assistance to family members who stop working in order to prevent possible COVID-19 exposure to a relative with a disability and taking steps to allow for food delivery to those with disabilities, among other actions.

The U.N. called out steps already taken by the United States to ensure continued education for students with disabilities and affirming the right to medical care as positive examples.

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