Government warned of ‘social unrest’ if pensioners not allowed to leave home

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EMBARGOED TO 0001 SATURDAY APRIL 18 Pensions campaigner Ros Altmann, who will become a minister if the Conservatives are re-elected, speaks to people approaching pensionable age at Melbicks Garden Centre, Birmingham, during the General Election campaign.
Former Pensions Minister Baroness Altmann said any plans to ease the lockdown should include the elderly. (Getty)

Pensioners will flout social distancing rules and “risk going to prison” if the government fails to include them in plans to lift the coronavirus lockdown, a former minister has warned.

Former Conservative pensions minister Baroness Ros Altmann, 64, said the government was risking “social unrest” with its current strategy.

It comes after the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) called on the government to let healthy over-70s out of their homes - according to reports in The Sunday Times.

Under current government guidelines, “clinically extremely vulnerable people” have been warned they must stay in lockdown for at least 12 weeks.

LONDON, ENGLAND  - MAY 01: Health Secretary Matt Hancock leaves 10 Downing Street after the daily press briefing on May 01, 2020 in London, England. Mr Hancock announced that the government's pledge to conduct 100,000 Covid-19 tests per day had been successful. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who returned to Downing Street this week after recovering from Covid-19, said the country needed to continue its lockdown measures to avoid a second spike in infections. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Health Secretary Matt Hancock defended the government's policy on Sunday. (Getty)

But Baroness Altmann said using age-based criteria would send a message that older people's lives "don't count in the same way as others".

Speaking to Sky's Sophy Ridge On Sunday, Baroness Altmann said: “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.

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"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."

"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.

She added "nobody would dream" of applying restrictions on the basis of skin colour, despite a higher death rate among BAME people.

On the subject of care homes, Baroness Altmann said people "certainly feel abandoned", adding the government's handling of the pandemic in care homes is "potentially an extension of this ageist attitude".

Health secretary Matt Hancock defended the government’s position on Sunday, tweeting: “We have strongly advised all over 70s to follow social distancing measures.

“However, there is no ‘blanket ban’, and the suggestion that the clinically vulnerable ‘include people aged 70 or older regardless of medical conditions’ is wrong & deeply misleading.”

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