THE end of coronavirus rules could impact society's most vulnerable people, including more than 10,000 previously identified in Blackburn with Darwen.

NHS Digital figures show 4,065 patients in Blackburn with Darwen 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 10,600 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 in Blackburn with Darwen, 18 per cent were aged between 50-59 – 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.

And from Thursday (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".

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."

The most common reason people in Blackburn with Darwen 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 48 per cent of patients in the area, where a reason was provided, and was followed by those with respiratory conditions that cause breathing difficulties (19 per cent).

A further 10 per cent had rare genetic metabolic and autoimmune diseases.