New coronavirus measures could be in place for 'next couple of months' warns Health Secretary Matt Hancock

The country faces an ‘enormous challenge’ controlling the new strain of Covid-19 after scientists found it was able to spread more rapidly, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned.

Mr Hancock suggested additional restrictions for England announced by the Prime Minister on Saturday may have to remain for ‘the next couple of months’ while a vaccine is rolled out.

“What is really important is that people not only follow them (the new rules) but everybody in a Tier 4 area acts as if you have the virus to stop spreading it to other people,” he told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme.

“We know with this new variant you can catch it more easily from a small amount of the virus being present.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock

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“All of the different measures we have in place, we need more of them to control the spread of the new variant than we did to control the spread of the old variant. That is the fundamental problem."

The new variant of coronavirus sweeping London and the South East has spread to other parts of the UK, a public health leader has warned.

But Dr Susan Hopkins, of Public Health England, said that while many regions had cases of the new strain, these were in much smaller numbers than in London, Kent and parts of Essex.

She told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “It has been detected in many other parts of the country.

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“Every region has cases but with very small numbers.

“It has also been detected in Wales, in Scotland, we have not had any detected in Northern Ireland.”

Dr Hopkins also said that she hoped people who had crammed onto trains out of London after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Saturday the capital was one of the areas going into the new Tier 4 would reduce their contacts: “I understand people’s wish to get home to their families and loved ones that they may live with on a normal day-to-day basis and wanted to get out of London,” she said.

“I hope that when they go to wherever they are moving to they reduce their social contacts and don’t contact anyone outside their household for the next 10 days, as that will help minimise the risk of transmission to other parts of the country.”

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