Tens of thousands at-risk Bucks residents "should not meet indoors" when restrictions ease
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Tens of thousands vulnerable residents in Bucks are still advised not to meet friends and family inside from next week, despite coronavirus lockdown rules coming to an end.
Clinically extremely vulnerable people – who were told to shield from March last year until just a few months ago – have been issued new Government guidance ahead of "Freedom Day", which includes avoiding the unvaccinated and continuing to meet people outside.
Disability equality charity Scope said that while lots of people who have been identified as vulnerable during the pandemic are looking forward to the country opening up, many are still “extremely concerned”.
NHS Digital figures show 30,335 patients in Buckinghamshire were classed as clinically extremely vulnerable as of July 6.
Of them, 20% were aged between 80-89 – the largest proportion of all age groups.
There were also 350 children on the list, who will be subject to this new guidance, as well as a further 2,585 patients aged 90 and over.
Though social distancing restrictions will end on Monday (July 19), 3.8 million clinically extremely vulnerable people across England have been issued separate advice.
It suggests they should meet others outdoors wherever possible to reduce the risk of airborne transmission, and ensure that indoor spaces are well ventilated.
Other suggested measures include “considering whether you and those you are meeting have been vaccinated”, as well as asking friends and family to take a lateral flow test before visiting.
Though they will be advised to follow the guidance that applies to the rest of the population for shopping, they may still wish to do so at "quieter times", the guidance says.
Louise Rubin, Scope's head of policy and campaigns, said those impacted feel they are on their own, having to rely on others taking responsibility, and without the support to keep themselves safe.
She questioned why the Government was taking away vital assistance when Prime Minister Boris Johnson had said the pandemic was not over.
Ms Rubin added: “Those most at risk have no concrete or consistent protections at work. Supermarket priority slots have been taken away. Furlough is due to come to an end.
“This guidance is essentially asking people to shield, without offering even the minimal support which has been available throughout the pandemic.”
Steven McIntosh, executive director of advocacy and communications at Macmillan Cancer Support, said many people with cancer were “desperately worried” about how they will stay safe.
The most common reason people in Buckinghamshire have been classed as vulnerable is because they were identified by an Oxford University tool which assesses multiple factors to determine whether someone is at risk.
This applied to 43% of patients in the area, where a reason was provided, and was followed by those with respiratory conditions that cause breathing difficulties (13%).
New figures from the Office for National Statistics for June 21-26 show that 29% of clinically extremely vulnerable people across England were continuing to isolate themselves, despite the shielding guidance being relaxed in April.
Just 37% reported feeling comfortable or very comfortable going to hospitality, cultural or educational settings, compared with 70% going to a hospital or GP surgery.
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said the most effective form of protection is vaccination.
He added: "By July 19 everyone that is aged 40 and over, along with the clinically extremely vulnerable, will have been offered their second dose."