Downing Street admitted yesterday that over-70s could be subject to different rules as the lockdown is eased. They are classed as vulnerable and urged to follow social-distancing guidelines closely.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “We know that as you get older there is a higher risk of coronavirus having a more serious impact. Complications and deaths are more common in the elderly, even those without pre-existing conditions. But as we look forward, it’s perfectly reasonable that we will look at how guidance will apply for different age bands and we’ll continue to be guided by the science.”
Sir Graham, the MP for Altrincham & Sale West, said in the Commons: “We have today the healthiest, most active elderly generation of all time and it would be tragic if the government threatened this by trying to extend a so-called lockdown for those judged to be most at risk based on age. Why don’t we just give them the best information and advice and let them limit their risk themselves?”
The British Medical Association (BMA) cautioned that age should not determine people’s ability to go about their daily lives when the government begins easing the lockdown. In a statement the doctors’ union said: “Any section of the population being prohibited from lockdown easing would be discriminatory and unacceptable.” The government should ensure that “those at highest risk from infection are protected”, the BMA said, but this needed “to be based on individual risk that would apply at all ages rather than an arbitrary age of 60 or 70”.
Matt Hancock, the health secretary, defended the advice and said that there was no “blanket ban” on the over-70s leaving their homes. “We have strongly advised all over-70s to follow social-distancing measures,” he said. “However, there is no blanket ban, and the suggestion that the clinically vulnerable include people aged 70 or older regardless of medical conditions is wrong.”
Baroness Altmann, the former pensions minister, is leading the rebellion within the Conservative Party. She told The Sunday Times: “A lot of people have been emailing MPs expressing outrage. There may be a battle raging in the heart of government on how to deal with this dreadfully difficult issue and there are some, I fear, pushing for an age-based lockdown.”
Lord O’Donnell, the former cabinet secretary, said: “I see no reason to lock down over-70s for longer on the grounds of stopping them passing the virus on to others. If we were imposing rules based entirely on personal risk then we would be tougher on men, ethnic minorities, non-smokers, and those with relevant other health problems.”
(Source: Drawn from The Times 5/5)