Matt Hancock warns UK ‘long, long, long way’ from relaxing Covid lockdown

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The UK is a "long, long, long" way away from easing the current lockdown restrictions, according to Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

Although Covid infection rates are starting to fall, the Health Secretary said case rates are still “incredibly high”.

Speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme, he said: “There is early evidence that the lockdown is starting to bring cases down but we’re a long, long, long way from being low enough because the case rate was incredibly high.

“And you can see the pressure on the NHS. You can see it every day – the NHS is doing an amazing job in incredibly difficult circumstances.

“So, I’m confident about the measures we’ve got in place now. What really matters is that everyone follows them.

“Not just because of the date toll each day, which is far too high, but also because of the pressure on the NHS – including from people who thankfully come out of hospital alive – is enormous and that has knock-on consequences for people who suffer from all other illnesses.’

Mr Hancock also revealed this morning that three-quarters of over-80s in the UK have received their first Covid-19 vaccine dose, with similar numbers in care homes.

He added: “In fact, we’ve vaccinated more people in just the last three days than France has in the entire history of this disease.”

The Health Secretary also spoke about the new variants – including the “concerning” Brazil and South Africa ones.

But he said he is more concerned about potential variants, adding “the new variant I really worry about is the one that is out there that hasn’t been spotted”.

Mr Hancock said countries with limited resources may not be able to notice that infection spikes could be down to new strains.

Questioned on the decision to extend the gap between the first and second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to 12 weeks, Mr Hancock defended the controversial policy.

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The British Medical Association (BMA) says the time frame should be halved, while vaccine manufacturers advise the second dose be given three to four weeks after the first.

The Health Secretary said the policy would “save lives”’ and argued it is better to offer everyone some protection rather than none at all, with the jab offering “decent efficacy” after the first dose.

  • NHS
  • Coronavirus

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