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

My right hon. Friend is precisely correct on the third question. The difference between the advice for seven days and 14 is precisely as follows. If you have symptoms yourself, if you live on your own you should self-isolate for seven days, but if you live in a household with others, the whole household now needs to stay at home for 14 days. The reason is that if you live in a household with someone who has coronavirus it is highly likely that you will catch it, so it is important, to protect against onward transmission, that everybody stays at home. That is the reason for the distinction between the seven days and the 14 days, and I hope that is clear—seven days for individuals, 14 for households.

On the point about the World Health Organisation saying that we should “test, test, test”, I wholeheartedly agree. We have continued the increase in testing in this country throughout this outbreak. The point that was made last week was that as the increase in the number of cases continues, so our testing capability must increase faster, and at this stage we have to make sure that the use of the tests we have are prioritised. As we expand testing capability, we will expand the number of people who can get hold of those tests. I understand the frustrations of those who want a test, but the whole House will agree that we have to make sure that we use those tests on the people who need them most, which means saving lives in hospitals.

On the point about the over-70s, to reiterate the answer that I gave a moment ago, the advice to everybody is to avoid unnecessary social contact. For the over-70s, for their own protection, that is strongly advised. The shielding, which is essentially reducing all contact as much as possible, is for those who have underlying health conditions and will be contacted by the NHS. The precise details of all these will be published on the website so that everybody can see not only the answers I am giving to the questions, but the precise wording of what we expect everybody to do, as I have set out in the statement.