MORE than 10,000 vulnerable residents 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.

NHS Digital figures show 10,895 patients in Blackburn with Darwen were classed as clinically extremely vulnerable as of July 6.

Of them, 17 per cent were aged between 50-59 – the largest proportion of all age groups.

There were also 195 children on the list, who will be subject to this new guidance, as well as a further 515 patients aged 90 and over.

The news came as the borough's health boss urged people to carry-on using masks despite the easing of restrictions.

Professor Dominic Harrison said: "With the link between cases and hospital admissions now severely weakened (but not broken), the lower summer transmission risk, and the end of the school term due, it is easy to understand why the decision was taken.

"However, with evidence of a further very high national ‘Delta Wave’ rising, it is less easy to understand why the government has abandoned legal requirements for people to wear face masks in enclosed public space. Face mask wearing will significantly reduce the risk of transmission of Covid in enclosed public space but would not stop the freedoms people can now enjoy."

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.

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 Blackburn with Darwen 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 45 per cent of patients in the area, where a reason was provided, and was followed by those with respiratory conditions that cause breathing difficulties (17 per cent).

New figures from the Office for National Statistics for June 21-26 show that 29 per cent of clinically extremely vulnerable people across England were continuing to isolate themselves, despite the shielding guidance being relaxed in April.

Just 37 per cent 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."