Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed today (March 15) the UK government will tell the elderly to stay at home for up to four months as he admitted the NHS does not currently have enough ventilators for the fight against coronavirus.

Today’s edition of Mail Online reports: “The Health Secretary said people over the age of 70 will be told to self-isolate even if they do not have symptoms in a bid to stem the spread of the disease and protect the most vulnerable in society as the number of UK deaths hit 35.”

“We don’t want to do that too soon because clearly it is not an easy thing for people to do, it is not an easy thing for people to sustain’ but he said he expected the stay-at-home advice to be issued ‘certainly in the coming weeks absolutely,” he said.

According to the report: “The move will raise major questions about what the government will do to ensure elderly people are not left without food and medicine.

“Meanwhile, the government has issued a ‘call to arms’ to non-healthcare manufacturers in the UK to ask them to step in and build vital ventilators for the NHS.

“Mr Hancock said the health service currently has an estimated 5,000 of the machines but it will need ‘many times more than that’ because they are the ‘big thing’ needed in the treatment of coronavirus.

“It is not possible to produce too many’ as he promised the government will buy all those which are made,” he added.

“However, he refused to guarantee that everyone who needs a ventilator will have access to one.

“Everything we possibly can to protect life,” said Mr Hancock.

“The government’s attempts to make the NHS battle-ready will also include turning operating theatres which are usually used for routine knee and hip replacement operations into coronavirus wards because they have built-in oxygen supplies. Mr Hancock said much elective surgery will ‘of course’ be cancelled in the months ahead.

“Meanwhile, the Cabinet minister hit out at people who are needlessly panic-buying, telling all shoppers to ‘behave responsibly’ because the government is ‘confident’ the UK’s existing ‘food supply will continue’.

“A number of European nations have responded to the outbreak by closing restaurants, bars and non-essential shops.

“Mr Hancock said the UK had not ‘ruled that out’ as he vowed: ‘We will stop at nothing to fight this virus.’

“Despite the grim outlook, Mr Hancock said the UK had endured worse, telling Sky News: ‘We have been through worse as a country, of course we have, but it is a very significant challenge.”

The Health Secretary added: “The measures that we are taking, the measures that we are looking at taking, are very, very significant and they will disrupt the ordinary lives of almost everybody in this country in order to tackle this virus.”

His comments came as “the number of positive tests for coronavirus in the UK increased from 1,140 on Saturday to 1,372 today as of 9am this morning”.

“The death toll has jumped from 21 to 35,” the report said.

“The government estimated last week that as many as 10,000 people were likely to already have the virus and Mr Hancock today said that number was now likely to be ‘a little higher than that’.

“Whole families will soon be told to isolate themselves even if just one member falls ill with coronavirus-related symptoms.

“Tomorrow NHS England will hand out new guidelines for hospitals which will tell trusts they can scrap routine surgery and outpatient appointments to free up resources.

“The government is striking agreements with private hospitals so that more beds can be brought into public use should existing NHS provision be overwhelmed.

“Meanwhile, troops could be deployed to guard hospitals and supermarkets, and police could under a worst case scenario be told to only deal with loss of life incidents.”