The elderly are understood to be at a heightened risk of dying from the deadly flu-like bug, which has already claimed dozens of lives in the UK.
As of Monday (March 16) morning, the Government and NHS had not yet formally advised the public to cut back on visiting older relatives.
But over the weekend, it was reported that those aged over 70 could soon be asked to self-isolate – and if that happens, people will have to avoid going into their parents’, grandparents’ and other elderly relatives’ homes to avoid exposing them to coronavirus.
With the disease spreading rapidly, it’s been said the Government is likely to put new “wartime-style” plans in place within the next 20 days.
According to ITV News’ political editor Robert Peston, the elderly may have to be quarantined for months even if they don’t have coronavirus symptoms.
The drastic measure is reportedly part of a series of actions by the Prime Minister, Health Secretary, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser to prevent the NHS from “falling over”.
How can I help my elderly relatives in the coronavirus crisis?
Simon Hewett-Avison, from the charity Independent Age, told the BBC that families need to ensure their elderly members have all food, medication and other essential supplies.
He said: “We have seen elderly people are quite concerned about this. I was talking to a lady last week in Teesside. She was constantly looking at the news and was really concerned.
“We are keen to encourage people to see [the coronavirus outbreak] as an opportunity to reconnect with family and friends that we have fallen out of contact with and check in with them.”
Should I stop visiting my elderly relatives due to coronavirus?
Prof. Francois Balloux, University College London’s chair in computational systems biology, said he doesn’t think it’s “a good idea” to visit elderly relatives at the moment.
According to The Guardian, he said: “If you have frail, elderly relatives, no, I really don’t think that’s a good idea. I would not visit [them] at the moment.”
We have seen elderly people are quite concerned about this.
This view is based on evidence that those with Covid-19 could be at their most infectious before they even start to show symptoms – so that only self-isolating once a fever or cough appears might not be enough to protect the most vulnerable from infection.
But Paul Hunter, University of East Anglia professor in medicine, told the publication he would not stop visiting elderly family members just yet.
He did, however, point out that there were certain social scenarios he would avoid.
Paul explained: “If I was older than I am now – I’m 63 – and in a particularly vulnerable group I would not currently go into a busy restaurant or pub or on the trains. I would be starting to avoid those sorts of settings at the moment. For me it would be a gradual thing.”
It follows reports that Downing Street is due to start offering daily updates on the outbreak, with the first such briefing due later this afternoon (Monday, March 16).
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