George Eustice told Nick Ferrari that the UK Government currently “does not have the answers” regarding how to address the situation clinically vulnerable people find themselves in. Mr Ferrari highlighted the mental health harm that may be suffered by the shielded cohort if they are forced to isolate for a further three months.
Mr Eustice said: “It is very difficult because they are clinically vulnerable and obviously no one wants to visit family who might be in that group and find that they’ve given them the virus.
“We don’t have answers yet, that’s why they have to remain shielded for the time being, possibly several more months.”
Mr Ferrari replied: “Several more months? They’ve already done the thick end of three, this is beginning to become like a jail term.
“Are you saying they could be in there for another three months?”
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The Conservative MP said: “We don’t have the answers yet, if the Prime Minister had the answers he probably would have announced them yesterday.
“It is a difficult situation with that shielded cohort, it is something that we are working on.”
The LBC host added: “This is not good for one’s emotional health, is it?”
Mr Eustice responded: “We recognise that and that is why the Prime Minister said yesterday that we want to identify ways to make life easier for them so they can start to see friends and families again.”
The prospect of longer restrictions had sparked the fury of the over-70s in April over concerns they would be required to isolate longer than younger generations.
The Government insisted healthy senior citizens would be allowed to go out once restrictions were lifted but urged them to be cautious about social contact with others.
Earlier today Mr Eustice received a grilling on the UK Government’s plans to change the furlough scheme during an interview with Sky News Stephen Dixon.
Mr Dixon said: “The Institute of Directors in their survey says that if you move towards this scheme where employers will be asked to pay 20 percent of that 80 percent cost of furloughing a member of staff….the survey says that 25 percent of companies think that will lead to redundancies.
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“There will be possibly tens of thousands across the country.
“The big question here is, do you think as a Government in terms of getting the general economy up and running, is that a price worth paying?”
Mr Eustice replied: “Well look I think the most important thing is we need those businesses that can get back to work to do so.
“That includes factories, food outlets places like McDonald’s and KFC they can return to work.
“Also, we are going to tentatively start allowing retail to reopen.
“What we actually want businesses to be doing is planning carefully how they can get return their staff to work safely and then reopen again.
“The way for those businesses to avoid costs and having to attribute to the furlough scheme in the longer term is to take those steps to get back to working and operating again.”