Charity warns nearly 50,000 vulnerable people in Northamptonshire 'rolling the dice' every time they go out after Covid rules scrapped

'Removing restrictions means risk of catching Covid will increase', says group founder

By Patrick Jack, Data Reporter
Friday, 25th February 2022, 2:28 pm

Charities are warning that scrapping Covid rules could impact nearly 50,000 vulnerable people in Northamptonshire.

Groups representing at risk families said a lack of guidance from Prime Minister Boris Johnson is a concern for those forced into shielding to avoid deadly infection during the peak of the pandemic.

NHS Digital figures show 46,885 patients county-wide were classed as 'clinically extremely vulnerable' when the shielding programme ended last September. That includes 25,040 in the West Northants local authority area and 21,845 in the North

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Of those, around one in five were aged between 70-79.

They were among 3.7 million people across England classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, although the government says the term is no longer used.

All coronavirus restrictions were scrapped in England from Thursday (February 24) — including the legal requirement for people who test positive to isolate – as part of the PM's 'Living with Covid' plan.

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

A disability charity says vulnerable people will be "rolling the dice" every time they leave home now Covid rules are scrapped

Founder Lara Wong said: "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 they may be forced into making "impossible choices" between lives and livelihoods.

Mr Johnson said that restrictions could be lifted a month earlier than planned because of the "extraordinary success of the vaccination programme."

He added: "We now have sufficient levels of immunity to complete the transition from protecting people with government interventions to relying on vaccines and treatments as our first line of defence."

NHS England figures show 13 deaths in the last ten days and 107 so far this year have been linked to Covid among patients at Northamptonshire's two main hospitals.

The most common reason Northamptonshire folk 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 applied to around 45 percent of patients in the area, where a reason was provided — followed by those with respiratory conditions that cause breathing difficulties, genetic metabolic and autoimmune diseases.

Disability charity Scope says many disabled people will feel forgotten by the PM's strategy, which also includes plans to scrap free testing in April.

James Taylor, executive director of strategy at the charity, said: “Disabled people having to rely on the personal choices of others and having no control over their own freedom and safety isn’t ‘living with Covid’, it’s living with fear.

“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 says it recognises the importance of ensuring people at higher risk from Covid-19 get 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.”

■ Click HERE for up-to-date information on where you can get a Covid jab in Northamptonshire TODAY — or contact the NHS online HERE or call 119