Coronavirus: People aged over 70 will be asked to self-isolate for up to four months

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People aged over 70 in the UK will be asked to self-isolate in the coming weeks to protect them from coronavirus, the health secretary has confirmed.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said coronavirus is ‘a very significant challenge’ that will ‘disrupt the lives of almost everybody’ in the UK.

Speaking on Ridge On Sunday on Sky News, Mr Hancock said: ‘The measures that we're taking, the measures that we're looking at taking are very, very significant and they will disrupt the ordinary lives of almost everybody in the country in order to tackle this virus.'

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Mr Hancock said that people aged over 70 will be asked in the coming weeks to self-isolate for up to four months in order to protect them from the coronavirus.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock arrives in Downing Street. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA WireHealth Secretary Matt Hancock arrives in Downing Street. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Health Secretary Matt Hancock arrives in Downing Street. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire | PA (Press Association)

Asked if that was in the Government's plan, he said: ‘That is in the action plan, yes, and we will be setting it out with more detail when it is the right time to do so because we absolutely appreciate that it is a very big ask of the elderly and the vulnerable, and it's for their own self-protection.’

It comes after Public Health England confirmed there have been 1,140 cases of coronavirus as of 9am on Saturday.

The first confirmed case in Portsmouth was also announced yesterday.

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Read More
Coronavirus: When you should self-isolate and how to do it

Pressed on when the measure will be introduced, he said: ‘Certainly in the coming weeks, absolutely.’

Mr Hancock said a Bill setting out emergency powers to deal with the coronavirus outbreak will be published on Thursday.

Asked what the emergency powers will include, Mr Hancock said they would be shared on Tuesday: ‘Yes, we're going to set out the emergency powers on Tuesday and publish the Bill on Thursday.’

Mr Hancock added that he has been talking to Labour's shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth about what the emergency powers cover.

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He said: ‘This is a cross-party approach. He's made some suggestions of other things that should be in there which we've included. And it includes a broad range of actions, all about preparing Britain, making sure that we're ready, should we need to be.’

When asked by Sophy Ridge about stocks of ventilators, Mr Hancock said: ‘We start with around 5,000 ventilators, we think we need many times more than that and we are saying if you produce a ventilator then we will buy it. No number is too high.

"They are relatively complicated pieces of kit, I couldn't make one, but they're not so complicated that the advanced manufacturing that this country is so good at now can't be able to turn its production lines over to.

‘We've been talking to a whole host of companies about it and the Prime Minister is hosting a conference call today with them to say very clearly to the nation's manufacturers ventilators are the thing that we are going to need and frankly right across the world, the demand for them is incredibly high so it is not possible to produce too many.

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‘So anybody who can should turn production and their engineering minds over to the production of ventilators.’

He added: ‘The thing the NHS needs now more than anything else is more ventilators. We've been buying as many as we can but we need to produce more too.’

Mr Hancock said he could not make guarantees that everyone who requires a ventilator will get one, saying: ‘We don't make guarantees in healthcare’.

Coronavirus: the facts

What is coronavirus?

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can affect lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called coronavirus.

What caused coronavirus?

The outbreak started in Wuhan in China in December 2019 and it is thought that the virus, like others of its kind, has come from animals.

How is it spread?

As this is such a new illness, experts still aren’t sure how it is spread. But.similar viruses are spread in cough droplets. Therefore covering your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, and disposing of used tissues straight away is advised. Viruses like coronavirus cannot live outside the body for very long.

What are the symptoms?

The NHS states that the symptoms are: a dry cough, high temperature and shortness of breath - but these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. Look out for flu-like symptoms, such as aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose and a sore throat. It’s important to remember that some people may become infected but won’t develop any symptoms or feel unwell.

What precautions can be taken?

Washing your hands with soap and water thoroughly. The NHS also advises to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze; put used tissues in the bin immediately and try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell. Also avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands are clean.

Should I avoid public places?

Most people who feel well can continue to go to work, school and public places and should only stay at home and self isolate if advised by a medical professional or the coronavirus service.

What should I do if I feel unwell?

Don’t go to your GP but instead call NHS 111 or look online at the coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and what to do next.

When to call NHS 111

NHS 111 should be used if you feel unwell with coronavirus symptoms, have been in a country with a high risk of coronavirus in the last 14 days or if you have been in close contact with someone with the virus.

Sources: World Health Organisation and NHS