Elderly people in the UK will not be asked to stay at home – Scotland’s national clinical director

Elderly people in the UK will not be asked to stay at home, Scotland’s national clinical director has said.

Professor Jason Leitch (pictured) said this group 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.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, he addressed concerns about an apparent variation in advice between the Scottish and UK governments.

Earlier, Scotland’s Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said Scotland is not planning on isolating the over-70s over coronavirus fears.

Meanwhile, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that elderly people are likely to be asked to self-isolate for up to four months – news that emerged from anonymous briefings.

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 added: “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.”

His comments came as a handful of schools across Scotland closed after Covid-19 was identified either at the school or in the community.

Elsewhere, six residents at Highgate Care Home, near Uddingston, North Lanarkshire, have tested positive for the virus.

The home said “strict infection control measures” are in place, including restricting visiting to the “absolutely essential” visitors.

The chief executive officer of industry body Scottish Care, Donald Macaskill, told Good Morning Scotland that volunteers could be sought to work in care homes, as a shortage of carers of up to a third has been predicted at the peak of the outbreak.

As of 2pm on Sunday, Scotland had 153 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with one death following the virus.

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