Sixtysomethings ‘should stay at home like over‑70s’ to avoid coronavirus – big implications for East Devon

Is pressure mounting to include the whole of the 60+ “Oldies” generation in protective “cocoon” lockdown in any exit strategy ?

If it is, then there will be big implications for East Devon where nearly 40% (37%) of the population fall into this age group.

Katie Gibbons 

Millions of Britons in their sixties are at an increased risk of becoming severely ill or dying from coronavirus and should consider isolating like older people, experts warn.

The government advises that only people over the age of 70 or with underlying health conditions should isolate but research shows that people aged 60 to 69 are also at high risk of complications and death from Covid-19.

A paper highlighting the dangers faced by the 7.5 million people in the UK in that age group has led to questioning from the medical community as to why the government guidance does not adhere to World Health Organisation advice that they are at risk.

Azeem Majeed, head of the department of primary care at Imperial College London, said that while this group was at a lower risk of severe illness when compared with the over-70s the threat was still considerable.

Data on Covid-19 deaths worldwide shows that fatality rates for people aged 60 to 69 are 3.5 per cent in Italy and 3.6 per cent in China. Other countries, including Switzerland and France, encourage those aged 65 and older to stick to strict public health measures and isolate due to their increased risk of severe illness and death from the disease.

WHO and the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention class people over 60 and 65 respectively as being at highest risk.

In Britain the risk of death from coronavirus rises in each age group.

However, the paper, published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, highlights that 85 per cent of deaths from Covid-19 are in people over 65. In the UK about 52.8 per cent of those aged 65-74 have two or more conditions, making them more vulnerable.

“Patients requiring critical care, such as respiratory support, are usually older with a median age of 60 years,” the authors said, adding that increasing the threshold for isolation to the over-60s could reduce pressure on the NHS.

As people age their immune systems weaken. Older people are also more likely to have conditions such as heart disease or diabetes, which again can affect how their immune systems cope.

Professor Majeed, who co-authored the paper with colleagues and academics from Exeter University, said: “The UK’s policy is at variance with the World Health Organisation, which states that those above the age of 60 years are at the highest risk, requiring additional preventative measures.

“To reduce hospitalisations, intensive care admissions and death we recommend that those aged between 60 and 69 are particularly stringent when implementing public healh measures such as social distancing and personal hygiene.”

Andrew Freedman, a reader in infectious diseases at Cardiff University School of Medicine, said the study “raises the question of whether healthcare workers in that age group should be shielded from frontline care of patients with Covid-19” in light of the call for retired doctors and nurses to return to work.

James Gill, honorary clinical lecturer at Warwick Medical School, and locum GP, said: “If a person older than 60 is already furloughed from work, then there is no significant disadvantage to personally implementing a more stringent approach to social distancing and self-isolation.”

Nick Phin, deputy director of the National Infection Service at Public Health England, said: “England data shows that the groups most likely to die from Covid-19 are men and those over the age of 70. Sadly, two thirds of deaths have been men and 79 per cent of all deaths are among those aged 70 and over.”


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