13:54, April 26 90 0 theguardian.com

2020-04-26 13:54:04
Don’t let older people’s liberty be stolen during this crisis

I read with horror (Coronavirus: what would a year of physical distancing mean for the UK?, 23 April) that I am likely to be incarcerated for a year because of my age (71). If this proposal were to be made law, I would immediately seek to crowdfund a legal challenge on the grounds that 1) there is no power in the Public Health Act to lock down people not reasonably believed to be infectious, and 2) that this would be disproportionate to the danger, and discriminatory, and therefore contrary to the human rights convention.

Unless one suffers from a form of dementia, age does not impair one’s wits – over-70s with impaired health can be relied upon to take proper precautions. If, however, like me, they are healthy and in their right minds, they should be allowed their freedom like anyone else. There are no laws against dangerous sports, and it is many years since suicide was a criminal act.

One is entitled to take reasonable risks and, if necessary, I would be willing to sign a declaration waiving my rights to a hospital bed or a ventilator. I would hope that Keir Starmer, as an experienced human rights lawyer, would refuse to support this approach. For older people to be summarily deprived without good reason of precious time spent in crucial family relationships, when their days are necessarily naturally numbered, is cruel and I suspect and hope would be found illegal.

Salley Vickers

Wilcot, Wiltshire

Gaby Hinsliff (Social distancing isn’t going to end soon. So how do we live with it?, 23 April) makes the interesting observation that “If an octogenarian who has lived a long and fulfilling life would rather take their chances with Covid-19 than never see their grandchildren again, is it morally justifiable in the interests of containing the virus to keep them at home, or must we eventually seek the safest way of letting human nature express itself?”

This raises interesting wider questions. We allow people to make plenty of unwise decisions about their health, especially in relation to what and how much they eat and drink. These decisions, while not directly affecting others, can have unpleasant or even disastrous consequences. They certainly put pressure on the NHS.

So might we expect to see some debate over whether we remove liberties that affect other people and society in general in the way that we have done in the current crisis, or will we treat this as something exceptional?

Bob Wolfson

Rudford, Gloucestershire

I take great umbrage at David Blunkett’s comments against age-based restrictions in emerging from lockdown (Older people could face extended coronavirus lockdown, Lords hears, 23 April). Until a vaccine is found we have to continue to shield older people, but we also have to face our economy shrinking. Since our welfare system is largely based on income taxes, we need young people to earn and pay those very taxes upon which our pensions depend.

The young have been the heroes in lockdown. They have stalled their futures to help protect older relatives. They have lost jobs, homes, incomes and education. They have volunteered, delivered food, and stocked shelves to feed the nation. The young have proved themselves to be the packhorse heroes of the pandemic and the least old-age lobby groups can do is support young people’s exit from lockdown to get the economy going.

Ashley Seager

Co-founder, Intergenerational Foundation

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