In the original Government guidance, anyone over 70, regardless of their state of health, was advised to be “particularly stringent in following social distancing measures” and “strongly advised” against social mixing in the community and having friends and family to the house. 

But on May 1, that guidance, dated March 30, was withdrawn and replaced with new advice which listed all over-70s as “clinically vulnerable”, regardless of their medical conditions. 

This group is “strongly advised” to “take particular care to minimise contact with others outside your household” as people in it are at higher risk of contracting coronavirus. However, they can still go outside if it is deemed essential and have not been advised to “shield” themselves from all contact, as those in the “clinically extremely vulnerable” group have been told to do. 

Yet Mr Hancock sparked confusion over the latest guidance by writing on Twitter that “the clinically vulnerable, who are advised to stay in lockdown for 12 weeks, emphatically DO NOT include all over-70s”.

Baroness Altmann called for “clarity” on the issue, saying the mixed messages were “confusing”, while best-selling author and former frontline doctor Adam Kay said: “I suspect the Health Secretary meant to say ‘Clinically extremely vulnerable’. I think it’s fair to say that the messaging is a little muddy.”

The Department of Health and Social Care confirmed that over 70s “are not included in the most at risk group (extremely clinically vulnerable), who have been told to isolate for 12 weeks”.

As well as reassessing the generational advice, a Government source said lockdown measures could start to be varied from region to region if certain cities or areas of the UK were seen to be experiencing a second spike of the virus. “It is one of the things we are looking at,” the source said. 

Playgrounds and gyms are not expected to reopen in the “phase two” road map, despite pressure from MPs for them to do so.

Tory MPs have been urging ministers to find a way to reopen gyms and leisure centres, including introducing temperature testing. However Mr Johnson is thought to be reluctant to make the change even as he starts to open up the economy.

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