These are the lockdown rules for over-70s after the government's conflicting statements

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has been accused of muddling the government's message on social distancing (Getty Images)Health Secretary Matt Hancock has been accused of muddling the government's message on social distancing (Getty Images)
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has been accused of muddling the government's message on social distancing (Getty Images)

The confusion comes ahead of a Sage (the government’s scientific advisory group) meeting on Thursday which will determine whether then UK can begin to loosen lockdown measures.

NHS England’s national medical director Professor Stephen Powis had said that it would be necessary to look into whether certain age groups should be subject to stricter conditions than the rest of the nation.

The suggestion has been met with some concern by other medical professionals with Sir Jeremy Farrar, a member of the Government's scientific advisory group Sage, saying he does not support giving different rules to over-70s.

"I think isolating certain groups and saying you are different from the rest of society is a very difficult message to give," Farrar told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"I personally would not be in favour of that."

But what exactly is the government’s stance on over-70s?

What have Professor Powis and Matt Hancock said?

Speaking at the daily press briefing on Friday Professor Powis said: "The over-70s can be absolutely fit and healthy, it's not the case that everybody over 70 has a chronic health condition or underlying disease.

"As we look forward ... I think it's a perfectly reasonable question to say how would that work in age groups and age bands?

"Although we do know that complications and, unfortunately, deaths are more common in the elderly even without complications, I think that's for consideration and that's work that we will need to do as we move forward."

The message was met with some concern, but Health Secretary rejected the idea of over-70s facing “a blanket ban” should lockdown measures be eased.

Speaking on Twitter he said: "We have strongly advised all over 70s to follow social distancing measures.

"However, there is no 'blanket ban', and the suggestion that the clinically vulnerable include 'people aged 70 or older regardless of medical conditions' is wrong and deeply misleading."

What are current lockdown rules for over 70s?

The Government website states people aged over 70 are "clinically vulnerable" regardless of medical conditions and are advised to "take particular care to minimise contact with others outside their household".

A further group who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus, due to specific serious health conditions, are advised to stay at home and avoid all contact with others, except for essential medical treatment or support.

The Department of Health and Social Care said over-70s "are not included in the most at-risk group (extremely clinically vulnerable), who have been told to isolate for 12 weeks".

Criticism of age-specific advice

The British Medical Association has said excluding any section of the population from lockdown easing based on age would be "unacceptable".

BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: "Any proposal to impose stricter social distancing for those at higher risk - essentially quarantining - based solely on age would be both unethical and illegal."

He added: "While any strategy to ease the lockdown must ensure the UK does not see a second wave of Covid-19 infection, it must also balance this with the rights and needs of individuals across the UK."

Speaking on the Andrew Marr show actor Michael Palin was also critical.

He said: “I think it’s a difficult call every time, but you’ve got to be more selective here, because there are a great deal, a great number, of people in their 70s who are very active, very thoughtful, who’ve got lots of ideas, can contribute to our recovery.

“And I think that to treat them all as people who have to be sort of kept out of sight is going to be very difficult and very wrong, and very unfair on a lot of people who want to help,”