Coronavirus: 'Reduce social contact' plans for over-70s

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Elderly people could soon be urged to "reduce social contact" to avoid coronavirus infection, Scotland's chief medical officer has said.

But Dr Catherine Calderwood insisted over-70s would not be asked to isolate themselves unless they were ill.

She said people in the higher risk age group might typically be expected to reduce social contact by about 75%.

Officials sought to allay concerns after the UK government said new advice could be issued "within weeks".

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said over 70s and younger people with certain health conditions may be asked to stay at home for an extended period.

Dr Calderwood told the BBC: "We would ask the over 70s to reduce their social contacts by about 75%.

"That will mean though that they probably will increase their family contacts or close friend contacts, who would be able to bring them food, and also prescriptions if they needed that, take them to hospital appointments."

'We don't want elderly people stuck in their homes'

The message was echoed by Health Secretary Jean Freeman who said older people would be asked to cut down but not totally eliminate direct contact with others.

She told the BBC's Politics Scotland programme: "We don't want elderly people stuck in their homes alone, not contacting anyone, with their families not being able to help them.

"We have not decided this yet but this is part of all the measures we need to take at the right time."

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The Scottish government's national clinical director Jason Leitch also sought to clear up "confusion" about what guidance might be offered to older people.

He tweeted that there was no plan to ask over-70s who are not showing symptoms to "completely socially isolate".

The advice might include avoiding visits to places such as pubs or bingo halls but visits from family or neighbours could continue.

The current advice for all age groups is that people showing possible symptoms - such as a temperature or new, persistent cough - should stay at home for seven days and only contact their GP or NHS 24 if the symptoms are severe or if they have shortness of breath.