Coronavirus latest: Almost 20,000 vulnerable Luton residents advised to continue shielding after 'Freedom Day'
Almost 20,000 vulnerable residents in Luton are still advised not to meet others indoors next week, despite lockdown rules coming to an end.
NHS Digital figures show 19,140 patients in Luton were classed as clinically extremely vulnerable as of July 6.
Of these, 18% were aged between 40-49 – the largest proportion of all age groups.
There were also 550 children on the list, as well as a further 675 patients aged 90 and over.
Clinically extremely vulnerable people have been issued new government guidance ahead of "Freedom Day". This 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”.
Louise Rubin, Scope's head of policy and campaigns, said: “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, added that many people with cancer were “desperately worried” about how they will stay safe.
The majority of people have been classed as vulnerable in Luton because they were identified by an Oxford University tool which assesses multiple factors to determine whether someone is at risk.
This applied to 55% of patients in the area, where a reason was provided, and was followed by those with respiratory conditions that cause breathing difficulties (14%).
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."