CORONAVIRUS lockdown measures should be eased for healthy over-70s, doctors say.
Senior medics last night warned PM Boris Johnson that social distancing guidelines are damaging towards elderly people's mental health.
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The British Medical Association (BMA) and the Royal College of GPs have argued age alone should not determine people’s ability to go about their daily lives when the Government begins easing the lockdown restrictions, according to The Times.
Around 1.8million “clinically vulnerable people” have been warned that they must stay in lockdown for at least 12 weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Some ministers say they may need to remain in isolation at home until there is a Covid-19 vaccine.
They include people “aged 70 or older regardless of medical conditions” and those “under 70 with an underlying health condition”.
Yesterday it was warned a COVID-19 vaccine may not be ready until 2036 – despite Chinese scientists saying one may be available as soon as the end of this summer.
Traditionally, effective vaccines have taken upwards of a decade to create – from the beginning of research, to clinical trials, manufacturing, and distribution.
The BMA said in a statement that a blanket ban on any section of the population being prohibited from lockdown easing “would be discriminatory and unacceptable.”
The doctors’ union said the Government should ensure that “those at highest risk from infection are protected”, but added: “This needs to be based on individual risk that would apply at all ages rather than an arbitrary age of 60 or 70.”
Doctors, academics, politicians, charities and celebrities called on the Government not to treat the over-70s differently from the rest of the population.
It is feared that if there is a reduction in activity among the elderly, negative impacts will continue after lockdown and increase the risk of dementia and frailty.
MENTAL HEALTH FEARS
Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, warned that prolonged lockdown would “impact” the “physical and mental health” of the over-70s and that age alone was not the best way to decide “who should self-isolate and to what extent during the next stage of lockdown”.
He said: “GPs are finding that many patients who are currently ‘shielding’ are expressing concern about their ability to continue extreme isolation for a long period, and this needs to be taken into account as plans for how the lockdown will continue are formulated.”
Last night, Boris Johnson’s father, Stanley, urged him to end coronavirus lockdown restrictions in time for his 80th birthday in August – when he hopes to climb Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for the Save the Asian Elephant charity.
Stanley said he was “rather hoping they will ease the restrictions in time.”
At a Downing Street press conference, Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary, said ministers would step up efforts to help the elderly and vulnerable trapped at home, but did not say they would soon be let out.
He said: “It’s very difficult for people who we have asked to stay at home.
“We want to offer them the hope that we can return to normality. We are going to do everything we can to support them.”
Yesterday the PM summoned ministers and aides to Downing Street to thrash out a “whack-a-mole” lockdown exit strategy, which he is set to publish on Thursday.
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Under the plans, he will unveil a slow easing of the lockdown.
But amid signs of restlessness, he was quick to point out it must be done slowly and carefully to avoid a second spike of deadly infections.
Regions where the virus is rampant could be declared “hot zones” and subject to tighter restrictions.
It is believed school kids will be a top priority as the Government draws up a secret “roadmap” to ease Britain out of social distancing restrictions.
Mr Johnson is running five separate teams of officials drawing up plans for how to end the lockdown.
They have gathered evidence for an exit strategy covering schools, transport, public spaces, recreation and workplaces.
Businesses will be given three weeks to prepare work spaces so people can remain socially distanced.
Johnson will then lay out proposals to make bigger changes at the end of May.
They will see pupils who have key tests or exams next year (Sats, GCSEs and A-levels), return to school, and more retailers, such as garden centres, reopen.
Office workers will be told to stagger the working day, keep canteens closed and have a "red" and "blue" teams working different days.
A senior Government source said: “The plan is to get the maximum economic return without raising infection rates.
"We will lift together but if you suddenly get a particular nightmare in one area you intervene to lock down harder.”
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