A plan to isolate the UK's over-70s in a bid to prevent the spread of the coronavirus is set to be rolled out in the coming weeks, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed.

Mr Hancock said that people aged over 70 will be asked in the coming weeks to self-isolate for up to four months in order to protect them from the coronavirus.

Asked if that was in the Government’s plan, he told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “That is in the action plan, yes, and we will be setting it out with more detail when it is the right time to do so because we absolutely appreciate that it is a very big ask of the elderly and the vulnerable, and it’s for their own self-protection.”

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Pressed on when the measure will be introduced, he said: “Certainly in the coming weeks, absolutely.” 

He confirmed that a Bill setting out emergency powers to deal with the coronavirus outbreak will be published on Thursday.

Hancock said ministers are yet to make a decision on whether to ban gatherings of over 500 people in the rest of the UK. 

“Things like the mass gatherings, actually it doesn’t really matter how big the gathering is. What matters is making sure people who have the illness aren’t spreading it and stay home,” he added.

In Scotland, there is guidance that events of 500 people or more should be cancelled from Monday. 

Asked what the emergency powers to combat the Covid-19 outbreak will include, Mr Hancock said they would be shared on Tuesday: “Yes, we’re going to set out the emergency powers on Tuesday and publish the Bill on Thursday.”

Mr Hancock added that he has been talking to Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth about what the emergency powers cover.

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He said: “This is a cross-party approach. He’s made some suggestions of other things that should be in there which we’ve included. And it includes a broad range of actions, all about preparing Britain, making sure that we’re ready, should we need to be.”

When asked by Sophy Ridge about stocks of ventilators, Mr Hancock said: “We start with around 5,000 ventilators, we think we need many times more than that and we are saying if you produce a ventilator then we will buy it. No number is too high.”

“They are relatively complicated pieces of kit, I couldn’t make one, but they’re not so complicated that the advanced manufacturing that this country is so good at now can’t be able to turn its production lines over to.

“We’ve been talking to a whole host of companies about it and the Prime Minister is hosting a conference call today with them to say very clearly to the nation’s manufacturers ventilators are the thing that we are going to need and frankly right across the world, the demand for them is incredibly high so it is not possible to produce too many.

“So anybody who can should turn production and their engineering minds over to the production of ventilators.”

He added: “The thing the NHS needs now more than anything else is more ventilators. We’ve been buying as many as we can but we need to produce more too.”

Mr Hancock said he could not make guarantees that everyone who requires a ventilator will get one, saying: “We don’t make guarantees in healthcare”.