Older people will “rebel and risk prison” if they are forced to remain in lockdown longer while restrictions are eased, a former Tory pensions minister has warned.
Conservative peer Baroness Altmann argued such a requirement would be “age discrimination” and could cost lives as well as threaten social unrest.
Her comments come amid growing concern the over-70s could be told to isolate for longer than the rest of the population when the rules to cope with COVID-19 start to be relaxed.
Meanwhile, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has underlined the NHS guidance to older people, who are classed as being at high risk from coronavirus.
This stresses the importance of following the advice about staying at home and only leaving if it is essential, such as getting food or medicine.
Speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme, the former pensions minister said: “I certainly hope as we move out of the current emergency phase of lockdown there won’t be some kind of blanket policy to forbid people of any particular age from leaving their own homes or from being part of the community.
“Using an age-based criteria would be fundamentally wrong and actually would potentially cost the lives of many people, and risks social unrest.”
“There are many over-70s who can’t bear the thought of having to stay in lockdown a moment longer and have accepted it because everyone else has got to do it.
“But if they are fit and healthy and they need to get out for their own sanity and physical health, then the idea that the government will tell them you are under house arrest while everyone else is free… then I think they wouldn’t accept it.
“Certainly lots of them have told me they would rebel and they would risk going to prison rather than being forced to isolate at home.”
She added: “Of course it’s age discrimination, there’s no other way to look at it.
“A healthy 70-year-old is probably less risk to society than an unhealthy 40-year-old in terms of vulnerability to this illness.
“The reality is more BAME people, sadly, are falling victim to this than others.
“But somehow it’s not OK to discriminate on grounds of gender, or obesity or colour of skin, but everybody is saying let’s think about somehow discriminating on the basis of age.
“As if older people are OK to discriminate against and it’s not correct.”
Next week Kay Burley will be hosting a live Q&A with Health Secretary Matt Hancock. You can put your questions to Mr Hancock about the coronavirus and its impact on your life live on Sky News.
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