The government has said that around 1.5 million people in England are in so much danger due to coronavirus they must “take themselves out of society”.
Those with certain long term health conditions were instructed not to leave their houses for any reason from now on.
Some 40 percent of the people listed by the government are aged 75 or older—and many of them are already extremely isolated.
Minsters say that shopping can be done on the internet or bought by friendly neighbours and left on doorsteps.
They say medicines can be delivered by local chemists, and that social media will help people battling depression and loneliness.
And, if all that fails, in some cases local authorities will step in.
This is crass nonsense. Those capable of ordering supplies online will soon find that it is impossible to get a delivery slot for their shopping. Pharmacies will not have the ability to drop their medicines round.
And it’s going to take more than Skype calls to help people through the next three months of “social shielding”.
The government knows that councils already cannot cope with the social care needs of thousands of sick and disabled people. Yet somehow they will be expected to manage many more. That’s why their Coronavirus Bill plans the suspension of the Care Act 2014.
The act puts a legal duty upon local authorities to meet the eligible needs of disabled people and their carers.
Instead of cutting protection for sick and disabled people, we need immediately to step up the level of care. Those who are already without food and medicines need urgent action.
The government says the army will be used to deliver food and medicines to the most vulnerable, and that those deemed most at risk will be contacted.
There is much more that the government could do.
Royal Mail’s delivery network should be commandeered to bring parcels of groceries and arrange pick-ups from chemists and hospitals.
The emotional and psychological pressure on those made vulnerable to the virus by their illness is already immense.
They must be made to feel that they are they are valuable members of society, and that the state will properly support them.
For that to happen, the government must be forced to take far more action than simply announcing ever greater degrees of crackdown.