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 2,665 patients in Mansfield were classed as clinically extremely vulnerable in April 2020, shortly after they were first added to the shielding list, alongside 3,075 in Ashfield.
By the time the shielding programme came to an end on September 30 last year, this had risen to 7,110 in Mansfield and 9,090 in Ashfield, 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 20 per cent in Mansfield and 22 per cent in Ashfield 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 February 24, 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’.
‘Shock and anxiety’
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, group founder, said: "The lack of government guidance puts vulnerable people in a difficult position.
“The removal of protections means 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.
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.
James Taylor, charity executive director, said: “Ending self-isolation and phasing out testing will leave some disabled people rolling the dice every time they leave the house.”
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.