MORE than 15,000 at-risk Southampton residents have been told they "should not meet indoors" just days before restrictions are set to ease across the country.

Clinically extremely vulnerable people, who were told to shield from March 2020 until just a few months ago, have been issued new Government guidance ahead of Freedom Day on Monday.

It includes avoiding the unvaccinated and continuing to meet people outside rather than an indoor situation.

NHS Digital figures show 15,365 patients in Southampton were classed as clinically extremely vulnerable as of July 6.

Of them, 18 per cent were aged between 70-79 – the largest proportion of all age groups.

There were also 200 children on the list, who will be subject to this new guidance, as well as a further 975 patients aged 90 and over.

The guidance 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.

It comes after Southampton was revealed to have one of the lowest vaccine uptakes in the south.

An interactive map on the Government website shows that 69.2 per cent of residents have had their first vaccine and 48.6 per cent have had their second.

This is below vaccine uptake rates in other parts of the county including Eastleigh at 86.8 per cent (first dose) and 67.1 per cent (second dose), Winchester at 85.4 per cent and 68.2 per cent, New Forest at 88.3 per cent and 74.2 per cent, and Gosport at 84.9 per cent and 67.5 per cent.

As previously reported, University Hospital Southampton said this low uptake was "in part" due to the city's young population.

Now, Solent NHS are encouraging young people to "bring a mate" to their vaccine appointment.

Anyone aged 18 or over, who has booked an appointment for either their first or second COVID-19 vaccination dose at Solent NHS Trust run large-scale vaccination centres across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, can bring someone with them to their appointment to also receive a vaccine.

David Noyes, Chief Operating Officer at Solent NHS Trust, said: “We recognise that some people may feel more comfortable bringing someone along to their vaccination for support, or to share the experience. By giving people the opportunity to come to their appointment with another person and get their life-saving vaccinations, we hope that even more people will get vaccinated.”

Dr Nigel Watson, Clinical Lead for the Hampshire and Isle of Wight COVID-19 Vaccination Programme said: “Getting the vaccine is our best defence against COVID-19 – with every adult vaccinated, we are one step closer to our summer freedoms. The vaccine cannot give you COVID-19 and will greatly reduce the chances of you becoming seriously ill.

“The first dose offers good levels of protection, but to get maximum protection everyone will need two vaccines and I urge people to remember their second dose. Being fully vaccinated also significantly reduces the risk of people developing long term complications of COVID-19.”