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Coronavirus UK: Elderly ‘should stay at home for three months’

Millions of the elderly and most vulnerable will need to ‘shield’ themselves from social contact and stay at home for three months from this weekend, Downing Street announced today.Boris Johnson acknowledged that ‘drastic action’ was required to quell the spread of the deadly coronavirus which has killed 55 and infected more than 1,500 throughout the…

Millions of the elderly and most vulnerable will need to ‘shield’ themselves from social contact and stay at home for three months from this weekend, Downing Street announced today.

Boris Johnson acknowledged that ‘drastic action’ was required to quell the spread of the deadly coronavirus which has killed 55 and infected more than 1,500 throughout the country.

By the weekend, those with the most serious conditions will be advised to take steps to ensure they are ‘largely shielded from social contact’ for around 12 weeks. 

Public Health England describes the most vulnerable as the elderly and those with underlying health problems, however, today’s advice stopped short of defining explicitly who needs to stay at home.

It comes after ministers were earlier on Monday slammed for providing ‘conflicting advice’ to the elderly and those who need to self-isolate during the deadly COVID-19 outbreak.  

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said there was no problem with vulnerable individuals going out to ‘walk the dog’

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said yesterday that the length of time older people will need to ‘stay self-isolated, stay at home to protect themselves is a very big ask’

Ministers were today accused of issuing ‘conflicting’ advice to older people over the need to ‘self-isolate’ during a coronavirus outbreak.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said yesterday that the length of time such people will need to ‘stay self-isolated, stay at home to protect themselves is a very big ask’. 

But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps seemed to strike a different tone today. He said it was ‘quite likely’ that the rule could be in place for months, but added: ‘It is the case that people will be able to go out and walk the dog. It’s about being sensible but not mixing in crowds.’.

Charities warned that many pensioners would be confused about what they were being asked to do after claims over the weekend that they should stay at home for up to four months. 

Meanwhile, the Scottish authorities have insisted there is no problem with the elderly having visitors, as long as they are not displaying symptoms.  

The government is expected to announce imminently that those over the age of 70 should ‘self-isolate.   

An online movement to place volunteers with vulnerable residents has been growing at an extraordinary rate, with almost 400 ‘mutual aid’ groups (pictured, an example) being established across the UK in little over 24 hours

Thoughtful Brits have taken to social media to offer help to vulnerable neighbours during the coronavirus outbreak (pictured)

Scotland‘s national clinical director, Professor Jason Leitch, confirmed that the elderly will be asked to reduce social contact, but family visits from people without symptoms will not be banned.

He added that school closures are ‘not inevitable’ as this measure does not help with the spread of the virus.  

Mr Leitch said parts of the UK are in ‘lock-step’, adding: ‘We will almost certainly, as a four-country UK, we will move to a position in the next few weeks where we will ask those groups (the over-70s and those with pre-existing conditions) to not stay at home in the social isolation way that we are telling the symptomatic to do so, but to reduce their social contact.’

He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: ‘It might be mosques, it might be churches, it might be bingo… and pubs. What we are not suggesting, unlike those with symptoms, is that those people would cut off family contact and not be able to receive visitors.

‘In fact, quite the opposite, we expect family contact to increase in that group so that those people will be looked after. The last thing that we want is four months of loneliness.

‘They are not going to be asked to stay at home, they are going to be asked to reduce social contact and to be careful and to use common sense.’

On school closures, he said: ‘Schools don’t help us much with the spread of the virus. It seems counter-intuitive I know.’

He added it might be appealing to close schools and colleges, ‘shut the border, hunker down…and reopen in two weeks’ time’, but added: ‘It doesn’t work. The science suggests the virus will be there. So when you reopen, the vulnerable will be hit again and your spike will just be later.’ 

Public Health England (PHE) have suggested that those not showing any symptoms – such as a fever and cough – should still visit the elderly, while people feeling unwell should avoid having any contact with them. 

But Simon Hewett-Avison, director of services at the Independent Age charity, said the information was conflicting.

‘If this is all they are seeing, this conflicting advice, opinion and guidance, it’s understandable that people are going to feel anxious and worried and not really understand what it is that they’re supposed to be doing to look after themselves, and also look after people around them.’  

He said a ‘much greater level of detail’ is needed about what isolation will actually mean.

He said: ‘I’m hearing all sorts going round at the school gate, on social media, from ‘I can’t go in my garden’, the next person says ‘I can’, can you walk your dog? What happens when you don’t see anyone, is that OK?

‘There’s all this speculation around what actually isolation means and we’ve got differing opinions across the UK as well, from Scotland to England, in terms of the difference in advice given there, so we definitely need greater clarity in terms of what self isolation means, or what it could mean. 

As the advice was stepped up, thousands of thoughtful Britons have taken to social media to offer help to vulnerable neighbours. 

Offers of help poured in on social media sites including Facebook, Twitter and Reddit amid fears for the frail and elderly, who are at greatest risk of serious illness as a result of Covid-19.   

Catherine Mayer, co-founder of the Women’s Equality Party, posted on Twitter urging fellow users to volunteer or ask for support by using the hashtag #HowCanIHelp.

‘All of us rely on others for help and the coming weeks will see carers and support networks impacted by coronavirus,’ she said. ‘Use #HowCanIHelp to ask or offer practical assistance.’

Elsewhere, an online movement to place volunteers with vulnerable residents has been growing at an extraordinary rate, with almost 400 ‘mutual aid’ groups being established across the UK in little over 24 hours. 

Among those to volunteer their time was Kimberley Scott, 28, who posted an offer on her local area’s Facebook page.

Explaining her decision to join the group, she said: ‘I have a disabled vulnerable mother and I thought to myself, what about all the people that don’t have family or friends that can go and get their food or medication?

‘I would hate to think someone is risking their life to nip to the shop or go pick up their tablets and I am sat at home with the time and health to help them.’

She explained that she had since seen more offers to help people than people asking for help themselves. She said: ‘I think if we all work together then our loved ones will be safer and protected.’  

Offers of help (pictured above) poured in on social media sites including Facebook, Twitter and Reddit amid fears for the frail and elderly, who are at greatest risk of serious illness as a result of Covid-19

One mother on Twitter said her children were writing cards to elderly people at a local nursing home to help them feel less lonely

Age UK issued guidance on helping the elderly during the coronavirus outbreak, saying: ‘If you know an older person who is concerned about leaving the house because of Covid-19, make sure you stay in touch over the phone, see if they need any help shopping, and encourage them to stay active in the house.’

Alzheimer’s Society Chief Operating Officer Kathryn Smith said: ‘We encourage people to visit relatives where possible, unless they have any symptoms. 

‘But if care homes have to temporarily close their doors to visitors then they need to ensure every interaction with someone with dementia is social, not just seen as a task, and consider options to keep families in touch such as using FaceTime, Skype etc. 

‘There also needs to be consideration for special circumstances, for instance people receiving end of life care being allowed visitors in protective wear.’ 

On Sunday, an Iceland store in Belfast announced it would reserve an hour each morning for only elderly customers. 

On Facebook and Twitter, Brits encouraged others to join their local Mutual Aid groups (above)

One Twitter user shared a handwritten note that he posted through his neighbours’ doors, offering to help any that were affected by the coronavirus

Iceland told MailOnline that they are allowing their stores to make their own decisions on how best to meet the needs of their local communities, but can’t confirm plans for specific branches at the moment. 

The reserved shopping time at the Kennedy Centre store, West Belfast, is set to start on Tuesday, and has received largely positive support online. 

Meanwhile, a popular Indian restaurant in Manchester is offering free hot meals to the elderly and those most affected by the coronavirus outbreak. 

On Sunday, The Khandoker in East Didsbury posted on social media to reveal that a free meal could be collected from the establishment for those in need.

It comes as Mr Shapps’ told Today that it is ‘quite likely’ that elderly people would have to self-isolate for months, but added: ‘It is the case that people will be able to go out and walk the dog. It’s about being sensible but not mixing in crowds.’ 

‘We will ask people to do that as and when the moment is right. Again, clearly in our action plan from the beginning of this crisis, but the fact that people know that this is in the action plan and is being talked about, in particular this weekend, I think is important,’ Mr Shapps told Today. 

It comes as Transport Secretary Grant Shapps (above) said people over the age of 70 will be asked to self-isolate ‘as and when the moment is right’

Since the announcement, support groups have formed on Facebook, with users offering to help vulnerable people access food or run errands.

In one such group, users shared a printable postcard which could be dropped in to neighbours’ letterboxes, with offers to pick up shopping, post mail or even just join them for a ‘friendly phone call’.

The card was created by lecturer Becky Wass from Falmouth, who told Cornwall Live: ‘If just one person feels less lonely or isolated when faced with this pandemic, then I’ll feel better about it. Coronavirus is scary. Let’s make kindness go viral.’ 

As well as individuals taking action under their own steam, organisations including Nextdoor UK are encouraging people to look out for those close to them.

The website’s advice includes using local online groups and reaching out to vulnerable neighbours.

Broadcaster Dame Esther Rantzen, 79, has suggested that elderly people who are self isolating should write a book, much like 16th century poet William Shakespeare did when he was on lockdown due to the plague. 

Speaking to talkRADIO, she said: ‘Four months when you’ve been living 70 years is quite a short time really, it’ll pass like a flash.

‘Think of Shakespeare for a moment, now at the time of the plague, it affected him, it closed down theatres and unfortunately he went to visit a friend who got it and he wasn’t allowed out of the house so he was isolated. 

‘He was on lockdown. What did he do? He wrote King Leah, Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra.’

She added: ‘What I would say, write your life story, if you’re in your 70s, I’m sure your family would love to know the story of your life, which you’ve always wanted to write down but never quite got round to it. 

‘Now you’re in lockdown, find a pen and a bit of paper if you have such things or a type writer – I think I’ve thrown mine away – or a computer.

‘Start from the year of your birth and write all the things you’ve learned, all the fun you’ve had, all the jokes you’ve had, all the love stories that you’ve never quite dared tell anybody, but you’re prepared to confide to a piece of paper.

‘So that when we come out in four months time or six months or whenever it is, you can say to your family, ‘Look this is what you never knew about me. I’ve taken Shakespeare’s example.”

How can you help your elderly neighbour – and what should you avoid doing? 

Stay away if you are ill

If you are feeling unwell you should avoid visiting your elderly neighbours and loved ones. 

Public Health England (PHE) says that people with coronavirus symptoms – dry cough, fever, and a general feeling of listlessness – should avoid seeing older relatives and stay at home for seven days.

This is to avoid passing the virus on. 

If you’re not ill, continue to visit them

But if you are not sick, then a visit to see an elderly person can help alleviate any loneliness.

Alzheimer’s Society Chief Operating Officer Kathryn Smith said: ‘We encourage people to visit relatives where possible, unless they have any symptoms. 

‘But if care homes have to temporarily close their doors to visitors then they need to ensure every interaction with someone with dementia is social, not just seen as a task, and consider options to keep families in touch such as using FaceTime, Skype etc.’ 

Stay in touch over the phone

If you are feeling ill, you can still be there for your elderly neighbours and relatives by giving them a call.

Age UK issued guidance on helping the elderly during the coronavirus outbreak, saying: ‘If you know an older person who is concerned about leaving the house because of Covid-19, make sure you stay in touch over the phone and encourage them to stay active in the house.

‘If it’s safe to do so you can pop in, but you can also stay in touch online or by post. Other than the usual routes of communication, one other example could be for instance a neighbourly Book Club dial-in. 

‘It might turn out that some of these options turn out to be a good way to nip loneliness in the bud in the long-term as well.’

Check they have everything they need

The Alzheimer’s Society said that people caring for the elderly should check that their relative has everything they need – including medicines, food and library books to keep them entertained. 

Help with shopping

As delivery slots fill up rapidly across the UK’s supermarkets, Age UK recommend that healthy, more active people help with running errands like picking up bits of shopping for vulnerable relatives or neighbours.

This offer to help should only be given by those who are feeling healthy themselves. People that are unwell should avoid contact with the elderly. 

Keep up your personal hygiene

Anyone who visits an older person should wash their hands before and after they visit.

Age UK says: ‘Ensure good hygiene at all times; be completely vigilant about following the government’s advice on thorough hand washing regularly – at least for 20 seconds – and catching any coughs and sneezes, and disposing of tissues.’ 

Embrace the internet 

Data from the Office for National Statistics showed that 83 per cent of people aged 65 to 74 had used the internet in 2019, up from 52 per cent in 2011.

As such, to occupy an older person’s time while self-isolating, encourage them to use the internet. 

Introduce them to online deliveries and entertainment programmes such as Netflix.

Urge them to stay active

Even walking between rooms can help with the mental strain of self-isolating. And if the elderly person you are helping has a back garden, encourage them to go out and enjoy it still. 

Coronavirus victim’s family call for acts of kindness in his memory

The family of an 88-year-old man who died after testing positive for coronavirus have asked for acts of kindness to be carried out in his memory.

A post on the Facebook page of St Michael’s Church in Middleton, Greater Manchester, called for a ‘wall of kindness’ to be built in memory of Darrell Blackley, who died at North Manchester General Hospital (NMGH) on Friday.

The message, shared on behalf of the family, said: ‘We invite you to forget flowers and cards. Instead we would like you to give acts of kindness. 

‘Help someone who is lonely or struggling during this time, who needs shopping, childcare or a chat. Post tiny acts of kindness given and received and share. Build something beautiful in Darrell’s memory.’

A statement on the church’s page said Mr Blackley had been unwell for several weeks.

It said: ‘Unfortunately, he came into contact briefly at a restaurant with a skier who had returned from Italy.

‘He became poorly with his underlying condition shortly afterwards and was admitted to NMGH on Tuesday March 3 with sepsis.

‘Because of his contact with the returnee from Italy he was placed in quarantine but tested negative for the virus.

‘On Tuesday March 10, still in isolation, he tested positive, became extremely poorly and died late last night (March 13).

‘Darrell was a faithful man at St Michael’s for over 50 years, he sang in the choir with a beautiful voice, described by so many as a gracious gentleman who is going to be sadly missed. RIP Darrell.

‘I cannot stress enough the need to self-isolate if you believe you are at risk of infecting anyone else.

‘Please hold Darrell’s family in your prayers, they have had a traumatic time not being able to see Darrell and are hurting so much. Also pray for carers in our hospitals nursing those with the virus. Thank you NMGH.

‘At this time when we should not be physically wrapping our arms around each other let us ensure all those who self isolate are helped in any way they need – phone calls, shopping, etc, because where there is hope there is life.

‘Let’s not panic but keep hold of hope by caring not sharing.’

The UK death toll reached 35 on Sunday and new measures to prevent the spread of the virus are due to be considered at an emergency meeting of the Cobra committee on Monday.

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