Health Secretary Matt Hancock has dismissed “inaccurate” reports that millions more people over the age of 50 will be asked to stay at home in the event of a second wave of coronavirus infections.
Between March and the end of last month, 2.2 million people judged to be extremely vulnerable were advised to “shield” themselves by staying at home and avoiding non-essential face-to-face contact.
That guidance has now been paused following a fall in the number of COVID-19 cases.
But it has been reported that – should there be a second wave of coronavirus infections – the government has drawn up plans for “enhanced shielding” to include a wider group.
According to The Sunday Times, many more people could receive a tailored letter in September or October to set out their risk – based on their health and age – from COVID-19.
This would likely mean that a large number of people aged between 50 and 70 would be urged to shield, the newspaper said – although it added that most of those affected, if the plans were adopted, were likely to be over 65.
However, Mr Hancock played down the suggestion that millions more could be asked to shield themselves this winter.
“We’ve paused the shielding programme because the number of infections is so low,” he said on Monday.
“The reports with respect to the over-50s are inaccurate and they’re speculation, but we’ll always do whatever is necessary to keep people safe.”
Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine – the wife of Cabinet minister Michael Gove, who sits on the government’s key coronavirus committees – had criticised suggestions that over-50s could be asked to join the shielding group.
“We are the backbone of the nation, economically and socially,” Ms Vine, 53, posted on Twitter.
“We look after the elderly and the young. We pay the most taxes.
“Lock us up and everything grinds to a halt. You can’t eliminate all risk. Not if we want to still have a country at the end of this.”
She added: “We all have to die sooner or later. If I get Covid and cop it, so be it. My time has come.
“I’ll have had a good life, better than most in this world at any rate.
“I certainly don’t expect the entire nation to bankrupt itself to save my sorry ass.”
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