Coronavirus: Scotland not planning to isolate over-70s, says health minister

15 March 2020, 18:14

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman gives a press conference on the COVID-19 situation
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman gives a press conference on the COVID-19 situation. Picture: Getty

By Matt Drake

Scotland is not planning on isolating over-70s over coronavirus fears, the country's Health Secretary has said, amid criticism of the UK government's communication and strategy.

The UK's Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that elderly people are likely to be asked to self-isolate for up to four months.

However, Jeane Freeman, his counterpart in Scotland, said the Scottish government was not planning on isolating the elderly but would instead be "asking them to reduce social contact".

Mr Hancock described the plans for over-70s to be forced to stay at home as a "very big ask", but said it is a measure for their own "self-protection".

Asked about whether Scotland would follow suit, Ms Freeman said: "The additional measures that we've always talked about are about reducing contact for those over 70 and in their eighties, asking them to reduce their social contact because they are one of the groups who are most at risk of this virus making them seriously ill.

"The other group is people who have underlying health conditions whose immune system is suppressed.

"It's not isolation, it's asking them to reduce social contact.

"We don't want people who are elderly to be stuck in their homes alone not contacting anyone, with their families not able to be in touch with them and to help them.

"What we're saying to them is, reduce your contact."

On Twitter, Scotland's national clinical director Jason Leitch addressed the apparent confusion and said there is no plan to ask over-70s to completely socially isolate.

He added: "We are working on guidance for the over-70s to be asked to reduce social contact for their safety.

"So no bingo, no pubs... but family visits and neighbours etc."

The UK's Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that elderly people are likely to be asked to self-isolate
The UK's Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that elderly people are likely to be asked to self-isolate. Picture: Getty

Quoting Mr Leitch's tweet, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: "These are decisions for The Scottish government but we are seeking to take them on a consistent UK four-nations basis.

"We will set out the detail of exactly what we are asking people to do, and when, in an open and orderly way."

In an earlier Twitter post, the first minister wrote: "Giving clear and consistent information to public at the right time on #coronavirus is vital. governments' media strategies must reflect the importance of that.

"This is not a run-of-the-mill political issue.

"The Scottish government will set out advice to the public in an orderly manner."

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