Matt Hancock, the British Health Secretary has said the government will eventually be asking everyone over the age of 70 to self-isolate to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
On Sunday, Mr Hancock spoke on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge. He said the Covid-19 crisis was unlike anything seen since World War II, adding that the UK has been through worse and could get through it.
On reports that the UK government would ask elders to self-isolate, Hancock said that it was part of its plans, but not yet implemented.
The British health secretary said it was a very big request to ask for the vulnerable and people aged over 70.
“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.” Hancock said.
When asked on when the measure will be implemented, he said: “Certainly in the coming weeks, absolutely.”
Hancock added that the UK government has a huge weight of responsibility to get its response right and that the NHS has an “extraordinary” time ahead of it.
He said they will be asking people to do more to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, adding that the measures they are looking at taking will disrupt the lives of everyone in the UK.
The minister said he was asking people in the UK not to forget that washing their hands is the most important thing people could do.
Hancock also said they don’t want to set out additional measures too soon and insisted the critical thing right now was to remain ready.
Asked repeatedly if everyone in the UK who needed access to a ventilator would get one, he said the UK government could not guarantee and said they were at the moment of seeking to produce more.
At the moment, he said that they need more ventilators and were training as many new doctors in their use as possible.
“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. So anybody who can should turn production and their engineering minds over to the production of ventilators.”
He added that the government “is ready” to ban gatherings of over 500 people to combat the virus.
Mr Hancock said he was “confident” shops will not run out of food, but could not guarantee it and warned the government could take further action.
Asked if food supply might be at risk, he said: “No, one of the things we are confident about is that the food supply will continue.”
But pressed to guarantee this would not be the case, he said: “Well we are confident about it. What I can guarantee is we will work with the supermarkets to ensure that people get enough.”
Speaking on the same program, the UK’s former chief scientific adviser Mark Walport said we were several months away from a vaccine.
“The challenge here is to make sure the vaccine is safe and it works, and unfortunately, that takes a period of time to do so realistically.”
“It’s very unlikely that we are going to have a vaccine for the present round of this epidemic. We are talking months, up to a year.” He said.