Ministers proposing the scheme say it will apply to far more people than the 2.2 million who were told to shield from March onwards, but would be more “sophisticated” and tailored to individual circumstances.

People in their 70s, for instance, may be told to carry on as normal if they are in good health, while even those in the existing shielding category will be allowed more freedom if their health conditions are at the less serious end of the scale.

However, Matt Kilcoyne, Deputy Director of the Adam Smith Institute think tank, said: “The Government’s messaging on this is muddled and they risk creating the worst of both possible worlds. 

“For middle aged and nearing-retirement individuals, they’ve built their experiences through the recession, the busts and booms, the dot com bubble, Thatcher and the seventies of stagnation.

“These are people who have seen it all, who have as much experience of their company and much more experience than any politician will have experience running the country.

“Their experience should not be forsaken just because of their age.”

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, Treasurer of the 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers, said: “You’ve got some of the most experienced part of the workforce, who tend to be in the more senior positions and therefore running businesses and organisations.

“We’ve found that some people can work reasonably at home, but others have got a need to be at work supervising. 

“I think it would look very odd, and for some companies it would look very difficult. If you’re a manufacturing type company you want people on the ground seeing what’s going on, which is not the sort of thing you can do from home.”

Civic leaders in Manchester declared a major incident on Saturday after coronavirus infection rates continued to climb.

Greater Manchester was placed back into partial lockdown last Thursday night after infection rates in some areas more than doubled in a week.

Declaring a major incident means the area can access extra national resources if needed.

Source: Telegraph