London, March 15 (IANS) Action to isolate people over the age of 70-years-old across the UK for an extended period to shield them from coronavirus was being planned in the coming weeks, Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed on Sunday.
The measure “is a very big ask of the elderly and vulnerable, but it is for their own protection”, the BBC quoted Hancock as saying to Sky News.
The self-isolation measure would mean people being asked to remain at home without visitors and with vital supplies dropped off for them on their doorsteps.
While speaking to Sky News, Hancock was asked if the advice would be in place for four months as has been reported.
“We’ll be setting it out with more detail when it is the right time to do so,” he said, adding the reason the measure has not been implemented yet is the length of time required was “very long”.
Hancock’s confirmation comes after the government has faced pressure to do more to tackle the epidemic after the UK death toll rose to 21 on Saturday, with 1,140 confirmed cases.
All deaths so far have been of people over 60 or with underlying conditions.
Hancock also informed that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will hold a conference call with industry leaders on Sunday urging them to join a “national effort” to produce more ventilators and other medical equipment “at speed” to help the National Health Services deal with the pandemic.
Meanwhile, work was also underway to buy up thousands of private hospital beds to boost NHS capacity should it be needed, the BBC reported.
An emergency bill giving the government temporary powers to tackle the outbreak will be published next week.