Hancock grilled by Niall Paterson on lockdown ‘timescale’
On Wednesday, the UK reported a record 1,564 new deaths within 28 days of a positive test from COVID-19. There was also another 47,525 additional cases reported, according to the latest Government statistics.
The reported number of deaths exceeds the 1,325 recorded on January 8th.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said coronavirus lockdown restrictions will remain in place in England for as “long as they are necessary”.
Mr Hancock said it was “impossible to know” when restrictions could be eased.
He added: “We will keep the restrictions in place not a moment longer than they are necessary, but we will keep them in place as long as they are necessary,” he said.
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“These measures that we have got in place that we hope to be able to lift, and we should be able to lift when we have been able to protect through vaccination those who are vulnerable – right now the vaccination is not in a position to do that.”
Police are in currently talks with the Home Office and the Department of Health about tightening lockdown rules around exercise.
Owen Weatherill from the National Police Chiefs’ Council, who is leading the policing response to the pandemic in England and Wales, said the rules around exercise are “a real challenge”.
He told the Home Affairs Select Committee that more detail should be added to health guidance and lockdown laws to make them clearer to the public.
Dr Daisy Fancourt, from University College London’s Institute of Epidemiology and Health, who has carried out a study on lockdown compliance, said people were following the rules in the vast majority of cases.
She said: “We found that compliance has been improving month on month, and week on week, and actually it’s now back to the same levels that it was last May, so whilst we hear the stories of rule-breakers, actually the majority of the population are really playing their part at the moment.”
Meanwhile, in Wales, Health Minister Vaughan Gething said the health service was battling with a surge in COVID-19 patients while also trying to deal with other serious illnesses.
Mr Gething said the impact of the pandemic would be felt for years to come as the NHS worked to clear rising waiting lists.
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He told the Senedd’s health, social care and sport committee the fastest rising pressure on services was from recovering Covid-19 patients in acute hospital beds and critical care capacity was at 150 percent.
In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tightened up measures and introduced a ban on drinking alcohol outdoors in public in areas of Scotland under lockdown and further restrictions on takeaways.
Reducing which shops can offer click and collect services, strengthening the law requiring staff to work from home and closing a loophole in the stay-at-home order are among other changes, all of which will come into effect on Saturday.
Northern Ireland’s chief medical officer also warned that there are “some hard yards to go” and lockdown would not be ending soon.
Dr Michael McBride said: “I’m not certain we will be emerging from lockdown in February. I think that would be optimistic in the extreme.”
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