In Brief

1.5m Brits told to stay indoors to protect against Covid-19

Brits ordered to stay home with groceries and medicines delivered to their doors

Letters are to be sent to 1.5m people in England suffering from one of more than a dozen serious conditions which it is believed put them most at risk from coronavirus.

Around 40% of the group receiving the letters advising them to “take themselves out of society” for at least 12 weeks are aged 75 or older.

The letters will tell the individuals that they are “strongly advised” to stay at home at all times and avoid face-to-face contact. They should not go out for shopping, leisure or travel and, when arranging food or medication deliveries, these should be left at the door to minimise contact, the letter adds.

Boris Johnson has already urged Britons to stop all non-essential social contact to slow the spread of the virus, but people with more than a dozen serious conditions, including cancer and respiratory diseases, and transplant patients will receive a letter from their GP in the next 24-hours urging them to stay at home.

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These “shielding” measures will see medicines “delivered by community pharmacists, while military personnel are helping to coordinate plans to deliver groceries”, reports The Daily Telegraph.

The groups defined as “extremely vulnerable” who will receive the letter include:

  • Solid organ transplant recipients
  • People with a range of cancers who are undergoing active treatment
  • People who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last six months
  • People with severe respiratory conditions
  • People with rare diseases and metabolism issues that significantly increase the risk of infections 
  • People on immunosuppression therapies
  • Women who are pregnant with significant heart disease

The Times notes that the measures are in keeping with restrictions imposed by over 35 countries, with over one billion people now estimated to be confined to their homes worldwide.

“The concern in government is set out by the prime minister”, says BBC political correspondent Nick Eardly.

“His warning that the UK could be just a fortnight behind Italy - and that the NHS could be overwhelmed - is one of the starkest we've heard yet. It’s designed to be so; to persuade us all to follow advice, to stay home and help save lives.”

The Financial Times says although the latest advice “is not legally binding, many are taking it seriously to protect themselves and those they love”.

The letter comes following reports that thousands of beachgoers turned up at seaside resorts over the weekend, prompting calls for the government to introduce more draconian measures, like those adopted by other European countries such as Italy and Spain.

In France, for example, police are patrolling streets to enforce a nationwide lockdown which will see violators hit with a fine unless they have a written declaration explaining why they are outside.

Metro says authorities have urged people not to travel to tourist sites “but are currently limited in their powers to stop them”. Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has meanwhile said it is time to realise coronavirus “isn’t a game”, adding “if people don’t follow that advice then clearly we’ll have to consider other options”.

The Guardian reports that “following scenes of packed beaches and parks over the weekend, and worries that people fleeing cities for more remote parts of the UK could overwhelm less well-resourced local health services” the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, issued a stark warning to those in the capital that police may have to enforce social distancing rules to prevent people dying.

Speaking on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show, Khan said that while “it’s really important that the police are focused on the priorities they’ve got”, if people continued to ignore social distancing advice, they could be drafted in to enforce the measures.

“There are lots of reasons why people may choose not to comply with voluntary social distancing” says Wired. “People may be worried about their job security, their ability to pay the rent or to support relatives close to them. Unless the government solves those problems, people just won’t be able to distance themselves.”

Attention will now turn to emergency legislation going through Parliament this week which could force airports to shut, see people held on public health grounds, and give police and immigration officials the powers to place people in isolation.

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