Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:06 pm on 16th March 2020.

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Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock Secretary of State for Health and Social Care 6:06 pm, 16th March 2020

The measures on shielding are specifically for those who have significant health conditions and will be contacted by the NHS. They are not for the generality of over-70s who are healthy, for whom the guidance is the same as that for people of working age, except that we strongly advise, as opposed to advising. That is for their own protection, because the over-70s, and especially the over-80s, are at significantly higher risk of mortality—of dying from this virus.

The other points made by my hon. Friend are welcome. He made a very important point about rent, which featured in the discussions that we had earlier today. I have been talking about it to those at the Treasury and to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. Many banks have already taken action on mortgages.

My hon. Friend’s point about the availability of drugs is, of course, critical. We have a very comprehensive drug supply chain system that we understand well, thanks to the planning that we have done over the last couple of years. Thus far we have not seen shortages beyond those that already existed before the virus, such as the one that we debated in the autumn in the context of HRT, but of course we keep the position under constant review.