Coronavirus: Over-70s shouldn't face discrimination when lockdown eased, says government scientific adviser

James Morris
Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
A government scientific advisor said 'it’s very difficult to have different rules for different age groups'. (Julian Finney/Getty Images)

A government scientific advisor has said over-70s should not face discrimination when the coronavirus lockdown is eased.

Sir Jeremy Farrar, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said he would not support imposing different rules to over-70s when easing the lockdown.

It comes after top doctors, quoted in the Sunday Times, said the restrictions should be eased for those over-70s who are healthy. Current advice says all over-70s are vulnerable to COVID-19.

Sir Jeremy told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday: “I think it’s very difficult to have different rules for different age groups.

“I think isolating certain groups and saying you’re different to the rest of society is a very, very difficult message to give and I personally would not be in favour of that.”

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It echoes comments made by defence secretary Ben Wallace, who said there will not be a “blanket rule” on treating all over-70s differently to the rest of the population.

He told BBC Breakfast: “It’s not a blanket view of the over-70s. If you are over 70 and you have a range of conditions you are viewed as very highly clinically vulnerable and you should take extra measures.

“If you are over 70 you should take extra precautions but it is not a blanket rule that if you are over 70 at the moment you are going to be treated differently from other people.”

Confusion reigns

Confusion first reigned on Saturday when Hancock criticised the Sunday Times article quoting doctors as saying the lockdown should be eased for healthy over-70s.

Writing on Twitter, he said the article’s “suggestion that the clinically vulnerable ‘include 'people aged 70 or older regardless of medical conditions' is wrong and deeply misleading”.

However, the government’s own advice reads: “Clinically vulnerable people are those who are aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions) [or] under 70 with an underlying health condition.”

The government then has advice for “clinically extremely vulnerable” people, which does not necessarily include over-70s.

This section is for people who have receive organ transplants, people with cancer, people with respiratory conditions, people with rare diseases, people on immunosuppression therapies and women who are pregnant.

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