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1.5m at risk to be urged: Stay indoors for 12 weeks

‘Military planning’: Robert Jenrick PICTURE: REUTERS

ABOUT 1.5million people with serious underlying health conditions, including severe asthma and specific cancers, are being urged to not leave home ‘at all’ for at least the next 12 weeks.

At his daily news conference yesterday, Boris Johnson said they face the highest risk of needing hospital treatment and ‘shielding will do more than any other single measure to save lives’.

‘We now have to take special steps to protect the seriously vulnerable,’ the prime minister added.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said letters would start arriving tomorrow and the advice should be obeyed immediately. ‘I don’t underestimate what we are asking,’ he said. ‘It will be tough but you are not alone. We will be with you throughout to support you.’

Mr Jenrick said the ‘finest military planners’ were involved in creating a network of local hubs to provide food and medicines for those with no one to help them. Free deliveries would be left on the doorsteps of those in need and information on how to access the help would be included in the letters.

Shielding is a measure to protect people who are extremely vulnerable to the disease by minimising all contact with others, the Department of Health said.

The guidelines advise people not to leave their home, attend any gatherings, or go out for shopping.

People living with others in the same house are advised to keep two metres apart, use separate bathrooms where possible and separate towels. The ‘at risk’ group should stay in contact using phones, the internet and social media.

Deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries warned it was a ‘hugely complex task to identify these individuals’.

She added: ‘Because we want to be as inclusive as possible we may slightly overestimate the number.’

Groups most at risk include:

■ Lung cancer patients having chemo or radical radiotherapy, people who have cancers of the blood or bone marrow.

■ Patients having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer.

■ Those with respiratory conditions such as severe asthma, severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cystic fibrosis.

■ Pregnant women with significant heart disease.

■ People with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that increase infection are also classed as high-risk.