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Coronavirus: Government to order isolation of the elderly 'in the coming weeks', Matt Hancock confirms

Coronavirus: Government to order isolation of the elderly 'in the coming weeks', Matt Hancock confirms
3 min read

Elderly and vulnerable people will be told to stay at home to shield themselves from the coronavirus "in the coming weeks", Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed.

The Cabinet minister acknowledged that the dramatic move would be imposed across the UK shortly - as he admitted it would mark a "very big ask" of the public.

And he confirmed that emergency legislation handing the Government temporary powers to halt the spread of Covid-19 will be published this week.

More than 1,100 cases of coronavirus have so far been confirmed in the UK, with the total number of deaths now standing at 21.

Elderly people and those with underlying health conditions are most at risk of coming down with a severe case, and Mr Hancock told Sky's Sophy Ridge on Sunday that the Government needed "to take steps to protect the vulnerable".

He added: "We set out in the plan how we would be prepared to do that and to advise the elderly and the vulnerable, who are most at risk from this virus, to protect themselves, to shield themselves by self-isolating. And we'll be setting out when that's necessary.

"We don't want to do that too soon because if we do - it's clearly not an easy thing for people to do. It's not an easy thing for people to sustain. 

"But the critical thing is we need to be ready and, everybody as a community, needs to be ready, to support the people who are being shielded for their own protection, the elderly and the vulnerable."

Pressed for a timeframe on when the measures would be introduced, Mr Hancock said: "Certainly in the coming weeks, absolutely."

The Health Secretary said ministers would provide the public with "more detail when it's the right time to do so", as he acknowledged that isolation would be "a very big ask of the elderly and vulnerable".

But he confirmed that a raft of emergency measures to slow the advance of the disease, which has now been classed by the World Health Organisation as a global epidemic, would be unveiled this week following talks with the Labour Party.

"We're going to set out the emergency powers on Tuesday and publish the bill on Thursday," he said. "I've been talking to Jon Ashworth, the Shadow Health Secretary... about what's in them. 

"This is a cross-party approach. He's made some suggestions of other things that should be in there which we've included.

"It includes a broad range of actions, all about preparing Britain and making sure that we're ready should we need to be."


The Government is expected to unveil new curbs on mass gatherings from next weekend, with Mr Hancock saying the Government was "absolutely ready to do that as necessary".

Current official advice stresses the need for regular hand-washing and says those experiencing a new cough or a high temperature should self-isolate for seven days.

Ministers are also pressing manufacturers to convert their factory lines in an effort to ramp up production of the ventilators required to treat those affected by the disease.

Mr Hancock said: "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. 

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

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