Matt Hancock unable to rule out extension to lockdown with warning over strengthened tier system

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said he is unable to rule out an extension to the second lockdown, while the tiered system of restrictions might also be strengthened.

Tuesday, 17th November 2020, 7:51 am

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He has said it was “too early for us to know” whether coronavirus cases will be brought down sufficiently to ease the second shutdown on Wednesday, December 2.

With Conservative backbenchers pressuring for the Prime Minister not to extend the lockdown next month, Mr Hancock said they do not yet have the data to understand its impact.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson – himself in self-isolation after coming into contact with an MP who later tested positive for Covid-19 – hopes the nation will return to local restrictions.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock during a media briefing in Downing Street on coronavirus yesterday.

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But Public Health England’s Dr Susan Hopkins – standing alongside Mr Hancock at the Downing Street press conference yesterday, Monday, November 16 – said the lowest tier of earlier measures had had “little effect”.

Dr Hopkins, who is advising the Government’s Covid-19 response, said they would have to consider strengthening the measures “to get us through the winter months until the vaccine is available for everyone”.

That goal of securing a vaccine moved a step closer after early data showed a new jab to be almost 95% effective in protecting against the virus.

Mr Hancock said “great advances in medical science are coming to the rescue”, but admitted the UK had only secured five million doses of Moderna’s jab.

“While there is much uncertainty, we can see the candle of hope and we must do all that we can to nurture its flame,” he said.

“But we’re not there yet.

"Until the science can make us safe we must remain vigilant and keep following the rules that we know can keep this virus under control.”

The UK has already secured 40 million doses of a vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech, which uses the same technology as Moderna and should be in the UK before Christmas.

But the Government did not place orders with Moderna at the same time and a Government spokesman said the jab would not become available until “spring 2021 in the UK at the earliest”.

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