Shropshire Star

Ending Coronavirus rules could impact Shropshire's most vulnerable - charities

The end of coronavirus restrictions could impact society's most vulnerable people, including more than 25,000 previously identified in Shropshire, charities have warned.


A group representing vulnerable families said a lack of guidance from the Government is concerning for the millions of people in England formerly advised to shield to avoid the risk of Covid infection.

NHS Digital figures show 7,475 patients in Shropshire and 4,165 patients in Telford and Wrekin were classed as clinically extremely vulnerable in April 2020 – shortly after they were first added to the shielding list.

By the time the shielding programme came to an end on September 30 last year this had risen to 18,030 and 10,415 respectively in the area, following an expansion of the list in February 2021 to include 1.7 million more people thought to be at risk nationally.

Of those previously identified as most at risk, 22 per cent in Shropshire and 19 per cent in Telford and Wrekin were aged between 70-79 – the largest proportion of all age groups.

They were among 3.7 million people across England classed as "clinically extremely vulnerable" at the time, though the Government said the term is no longer used.

From Thursday, all coronavirus laws in England – including the legal requirement for people who test positive to isolate – came to an end as part of the Government's strategy of "living with Covid".

The Clinically Vulnerable Families support group said the move has left people who were once on the list in a state of shock and anxiety.

Lara Wong, founder of the organisation, said: "The lack of government guidance puts vulnerable people in a difficult position. The removal of protections means that the risk of catching Covid will increase."

She said these protections had allowed vulnerable people a small taste of freedom, but without clear guidance they must now make impossible choices between lives and livelihoods.

She said non-vulnerable members of the population should continue to wear masks and isolate when needed.

The most common reason people were classed as vulnerable was because they were identified by an Oxford University tool, which assesses multiple factors to determine whether someone is at risk, such as their age, weight and ethnicity.

This was followed by those with respiratory conditions that cause breathing difficulties and those with rare genetic metabolic and autoimmune diseases.

Disability charity Scope said many disabled people will feel forgotten by Prime Minister Boris Johnson's strategy, which also includes plans to scrap free universal testing in April.

The Department of Health and Social Care said it recognises the importance of ensuring people at higher risk from Covid-19 receive the right advice.

A spokeswoman added: "This may be particularly important for those whose immune system means that they are at higher risk. Vaccines are the best way we can protect ourselves from the virus and we continue to urge all those eligible to get boosted now.”