UK guidance for people aged 70 and over to self-isolate is leaving people aged 60 to 69 at increased risk from coronavirus, say scientists.
Prof Azeem Majeed and colleagues at Imperial College London (ICL) noted that other countries had different policies and the World Health Organization said the highest risk was in over-60s.
According to a paper published by the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford University, the death rate among people in their 70s is 8%, and the rate among those in their 60s is 3.6%, which the ICL scientists said was “still substantial”.
They recommend that the 7.3 million people in their 60s in the UK should be more careful about physical distancing and personal hygiene.
“In the absence of government guidance, people in this group (60-69) can make their own informed decisions on how to minimise their risks of Covid-19 infection. This can include isolating themselves in a similar manner to that recommended by the UK government for people aged 70 years and over,” they said in a paper published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.
“While the severity of the disease increases from the age of 40 years, those above the age of 60 years and those with underlying medical conditions including, but not limited to, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases and cancers are at the highest risk.”
They cited international evidence that over-60s are at higher risk. “The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 80% of Covid-19-related deaths are in those aged 65 years and over,” they said. In China, 80% of deaths were in the over-60s.
Switzerland and France were among the countries that advised over-65s to take greater precautions against infection, they added.
Other scientists agree there is a cause for concern about the 60-69 age group. Dr Tom Wingfield from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, said: “It would be helpful to see what evidence was used to inform the UK government’s decision to define people over 70 years old as a high-risk group rather than using a lower age threshold such as 60 or 65 years old. This is a really important issue for the general public when we consider that more than 7 million people in the UK are aged between 60 and 69 years old.
“In addition to the general public, it is also vital that carers and key workers who are aged over 60, including those returning from retirement to work in the NHS and other social care settings, are provided with accurate information to be able to make informed decisions about minimising their own risk from Covid-19.”