Matt Hancock fails to guarantee lockdown will end on December 2

Matt Hancock fails to guarantee lockdown will end on December 2

Christmas still in peril as Matt Hancock warns it is ‘too early’ to know if coronavirus case numbers will fall enough to lift the national lockdown on December 2

  • Matt Hancock said it is ‘too early’ to know if England-wide lockdown is working
  • Health Secretary said ‘we absolutely hope’ to end national lockdown on Dec 2
  • Officials said they should start to see lockdown impact ‘over the next week’

Health Secretary Matt Hancock today warned it is ‘too early’ to know if coronavirus case numbers will have fallen enough to lift the England-wide lockdown on December 2.  

Mr Hancock said ‘most of’ the positive tests which are emerging across the country now likely originated before the national shutdown started. 

Health officials said this afternoon that ‘if the lockdown is working’ then they should start to see case numbers start to fall ‘over the next week’.

Mr Hancock said ministers ‘absolutely hope to be able to replace the national lockdown with a tiered system’ next month – but he stopped short of guaranteeing that will happen as he placed Christmas in peril. 

Matt Hancock, pictured in Downing Street this afternoon, said ministers ‘absolutely hope to be able to replace the national lockdown with a tiered system’ next month – but he stopped short of guaranteeing that will happen

Boris Johnson has made clear that the regulations underpinning the national lockdown will expire on December 2 and MPs will be given a say on what happens next. 

However, there are fears that if case numbers are still high as the four-week deadline approaches then the PM could be forced into trying to extend the shutdown. 

That would spark a furious Tory rebellion, with many of the PM’s backbenchers adamant they will not agree to keeping the national measures in place.  

Appearing at a Downing Street press conference, Mr Hancock was asked whether lockdown will be extended if case numbers are still continuing to rise. 

He said: ‘The answer is that it is too early for us to know what the number of cases will be as we come to the end of the current lockdown. 

‘But what I would say is that at the moment most of the tests that we are getting back and most of the positive cases are from around the time that the lockdown came in. 

‘And so we are yet to see in the data, and it is too early to expect to see in the data, the impact of the second lockdown. 

‘But we absolutely hope to be able to replace the national lockdown with a tiered system similar to what we had before. 

‘But we of course are assessing that and assessing how we can make sure that that will be effective.’ 

Dr Susan Hopkins, a Public Health England director who is advising the Government’s coronavirus response, said officials should start to see if lockdown is working ‘over the next week’. 

Speaking alongside Mr Hancock, she said: ‘The key issue for us is making sure that cases start to fall and we expect if the lockdown is working, and we are all doing the best we can to have reduced social contact with other people, that we will start to see cases decline over the next week. 

‘We expect it will be longer to see hospital admissions [fall], another week or so, but I think as long as we start to see cases decline then we can start making a judgement about what are the right decisions that we make and what are the opening up decisions that happen on December 2.’ 

Dr Hopkins signalled there could be a possible tightening of restrictions at the bottom end of the English tier system if and when the Government decides to reintroduce it.

She warned this could be required to increase its effectiveness until Covid-19 vaccines become widely available.

Dr Susan Hopkins said ‘if the lockdown is working’ then officials should start to see case numbers falling ‘over the next week’

Asked what might happen after the lockdown ends on December 2, she said: ‘We have recognised that the tiering of the country has had a different effect in each area.

‘Tier 3 and especially Tier 3 plus in the north has had an effect on reducing the numbers of cases in the north west and we can see in the north west a declining number of cases now.

‘Tier 2 seemed to hold in some areas and not so well in others so really it depends on how fast transmissions are occurring and how well the individuals in the population are taking that advice in.

‘We are seeing very little effect from Tier 1 and I think when we look at what tiers may be there in future we will have to think about strengthening them in order to get us through the winter months until the vaccine is available for everyone.’  

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