Coronavirus: Over-70s need to keep their distance, insists Suffolk health director

Stuart Keeble, director of public health for Suffolk. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

Stuart Keeble, director of public health for Suffolk. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL - Credit: Archant

People need to be very careful to avoid potentially dangerous contact with older relatives during the coronavirus crisis, Suffolk’s director of public health warned on the morning after restrictions on social gatherings were tightened by the government.

Stuart Keeble said that while it would be fine for fit people over the age of 70 to go out for a walk or to exercise their pet, they needed to avoid coming into close contact with anyone – including other members of their family who did not live with them.

Family members should still check on older relatives and do their shopping for them, but they should be careful not to come within two metres of them. It would be best not to be in the same room as the older person.

More on Suffolk’s response to the coronavirus/Covid-19 crisis here

Mr Keeble said he was still studying all the government’s advice – more details were sent to health officials after Monday’s Downing Street statement – but it was clear that everyone needed to cease unnecessary contacts with others.

He said: “The advice is that where possible, everyone should try to follow these measures as much as is pragmatic. In particular, for those who are over 70, have an underlying health condition or are pregnant, we strongly advise them to follow the official advice as much as you can, and to significantly limit your face-to-face interaction with friends and family if possible.”

Families facing the prospect of self-isolating themselves because one member has a persistent cough or is running a temperature will be facing inconvenience.

However that remains necessary to try to prevent coronavirus infecting the most vulnerable people who might have to be admitted to hospital.

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Mr Keeble emphasised that anyone with a family member who had a persistent cough or was running a high temperature needed to isolate themselves for 14 days to reduce the risk of passing on the disease.

There have been concerns about the mental health of people living in self-isolation.

Mr Keeble’s department is working with the Suffolk Resilience Forum to try to ensure there is support for people who might feel very lonely during several weeks or even months of isolation in a bid to ensure that they can retain some contact with their friends and families.

He said: “We are very aware this is potentially a very serious issue – but our main focus now is to try to limit the spread of the virus. This is something we will be working on over the next few weeks.”

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