First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said cutting social contact will be tough for older people but the policy will save lives.
She has urged communities to rally round older people as they avoid unnecessary social contact, saying every single person in Scotland has a role to play in dealing with the impact of coronavirus.
Speaking during a visit to Age Scotland in Edinburgh to announce £80,000 in funding to help the charity deal with up to 1,500 calls a day, Ms Sturgeon said the “very strong” guidance about over-70s staying at home was “very much for the protection of older people”.
Ms Sturgeon warned “life as we know it will be fundamentally different” in the coming weeks but she stressed people should remember “our obligations to each other” and help those most at risk of “falling through the cracks”.
Asked about the measures limiting over-70s’ contact, Ms Sturgeon told the PA news agency: “They should be staying home as much as possible, reducing unnecessary social interaction.
“I know that’s going to be difficult, particularly for older people like my own mum and dad who see my niece and look after my niece after school.
“To cut that kind of social interaction is going to be tough but it is for their own protection because we know that in the elderly population there is more vulnerability to becoming seriously ill with coronavirus and in a small number of cases – but every case matters – dying from it.
“So this is very much for the protection of older people.”
Fancy a chat? Maybe you just want to hear a friendly voice? Many thousands of older people in Scotland feel lonely, perhaps more so than ever right now. But we're here to help. Call our Helpline for a chat. We've always got time to talk. 0800 12 44 222 âï¸ #EndLoneliness pic.twitter.com/WugKHNFz4h— Age Scotland (@agescotland) March 18, 2020
Ms Sturgeon added: “These measures will reduce the risk for all of us of getting this virus but they will also reduce the risk that if we do become infected we’re not passing it on to other people – particularly people who might be vulnerable.
“This is not the Government telling you to do difficult things for the sake of it, these are not decisions we are taking lightly, this is not advice we’re giving lightly, it’s for the protection of all of us and to save lives.
“So my advice to people generally is to follow this guidance for good reason – do the right thing here.”
Ms Sturgeon said despite measures aimed at keeping people apart physically “that doesn’t mean we are not trying to help and show care and kindness and love to people”.
Suggesting measures people can take to look after older and more vulnerable people, Ms Sturgeon advised regularly calling relatives to check up and offer practical assistance to them and any elderly neighbours, such as doing their shopping.
“For all older people, if they need somebody and they don’t have somebody in their own networks then the Age Scotland helpline is here to offer that friendly voice but also to offer some really practical advice and assistance.
“We’re working really hard to make sure that, in these difficult times ahead, no one is falling through the cracks and we’ve all got a part to play just looking out for each other.
“If we do that then we’ll get through this difficult period a lot better.”
Age Scotland’s free, confidential helpline is available on 0800 12 44 222 Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm.