Coronavirus: No.10 ‘drops plan to shield over-50s’ amid cabinet backlash

One minister said the government risked “mixed messaging” when it was trying to convince workers to return to the office
Photo: PA

By PoliticsHome staff

04 Aug 2020

Downing Street has reportedly dropped plans to order some over-50s to stay at home during the winter to protect themselves from coronavirus following a cabinet backlash.

According to The Telegraph, the government has ditched the proposals, which were first trailed at the weekend, amid warnings they would be impractical and economically damaging.

Reports over the weekend suggested that people aged between 50 and 70 would be given personalised coronavirus risk ratings, with some being told to stay at home as part of a strategy to counter a potential second wave.

On Monday, health secretary Matt Hancock said those claims were “inaccurate", but a No.10 spokesperson repeatedly declined the opportuniy to rule out pushing ahead with the plan.

Under the proposals, those at enhanced risk of Covid-19 could have been allocated specific times of the week for exclusive access to some services and shops.

But The Telegraph reports that business and economic ministers quickly distanced themselves from the policy, with warnings that it could deprive firms of key managers and experience as they fight to recover from the coronavirus lockdown.

One minister told the paper: “It would be incredibly difficult to do it. How would you identify people? How would you start grading them? Even if you were able to work out the practicalities, how would you enforce it?”  

Another argued that the government risked “mixed messaging” and a “contradictory announcement” at a time when it was trying to convince workers to return to the office.

Prominent Conservative backbencher Iain Duncan Smith said: “The whole thing is economic madness. The government is failing at the moment to get across the message that the biggest danger they face is a collapsed economy.”

Asked on Monday to rule out age-based restrictions, the PM's spokesman would only say: “It’s inaccurate.

"In terms of what is our approach – you don’t need to speculate on it. It’s set out in the roadmap and in the contain strategy.

“It is for localised action to stop outbreaks as and where we find them.”

He added: “It’s certainly not something that I’m aware of. We continue to look at the best available scientific and medical advice.

"You can see what our approach and you can see it in action, which is to focus on taking action at a local level.”

This article first appeared on CSW's sister title PoliticsHome.

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