Matt Hancock is accused of trying to ‘bounce’ Boris Johnson into shutting the hospitality sector after warning UK is at ‘perilous moment’ and that lockdowns will be part of life until a vaccine is found
- Matt Hancock today warned UK is at a ‘perilous moment’ in fight against virus
- He said suppression of Covid-19 is required ‘until a vaccine can make us safe’
- He told NHS chiefs that ‘we can and we will get through this’ amid spike in cases
Matt Hancock was accused of trying to ‘bounce’ Boris Johnson into closing the hospitality sector in the North on Thursday as he warned Britain faced a ‘perilous moment’.
In a speech to an NHS conference, the Health Secretary said he was ‘very worried’ about a surge in hospital admissions in recent days.
His comments came as Whitehall sources accused the Department of Health of trying to ‘lock in’ proposals for sweeping curbs on hospitality in hotspots in the North before they are agreed.
Downing Street denied reports that the Prime Minister had ‘signed off’ on a package of restrictions that would involve the closure of all pubs and restaurants in the worst hotspots next week.
Matt Hancock was accused of trying to ‘bounce’ Boris Johnson into closing the hospitality sector in the North on Thursday as he warned Britain faced a ‘perilous moment’
The PM’s official spokesman said ministers were still ‘considering a range of options’.
Some of these stop short of the full closure of the hospitality sector, including limiting opening hours.
The news came as figures showed there had been a further 17,540 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.
That brings the total number of cases in the UK to 561,815 as the Government also said that a further 77 people had died, taking the total death toll to 42,592.
Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies showed there had now been 58,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
A Whitehall source suggested that senior figures in the Department of Health were trying to bounce the Government into taking tougher measures by suggesting they had already been agreed.
‘Health want it locked in now,’ the source said.
Downing Street denied reports that the Prime Minister had ‘signed off’ on a package of restrictions that would involve the closure of all pubs and restaurants in the worst hotspots next week
‘They didn’t get what they wanted last time when they were pushing for a circuit break so they are trying to get it locked in now by suggesting it’s a done deal. It isn’t.’
The circuit break plan – which would have involved a temporary total lockdown – was proposed by chief medical officer Chris Whitty last month but abandoned after protests from Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Business Secretary Alok Sharma.
Leaked documents suggest the PM is poised to unveil a new three-tier system of lockdown measures designed to make the system easier to understand.
Areas with relatively low infection levels will be placed in tier one, where only national restrictions such as the rule of six and 10pm curfew will apply.
Tier two will also include bans on home visits and indoor socialising with other households.
Options for tier three include total closure of the hospitality sector, a ban on overnight stays outside the home and the closure of venues such as cinemas.
A Treasury source said the measures should be ‘as reticent as possible’.
A source close to Mr Hancock said: ‘No one is trying to bounce the Prime Minister into anything.’
Mr Hancock told the NHS Providers annual conference on Wednesday: ‘We are at a perilous moment in the course of this pandemic.
‘I am very worried about the growth in the number of cases, especially in the North West and the North East of England, parts of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and parts of Yorkshire.’
He added: ‘In parts of the country the situation is again becoming very serious.
‘Hospitalisations in the North West are doubling approximately every fortnight. They have risen by 57 per cent in just the last week alone.
‘Unfortunately we’re seeing hospitalisations in the over-60s rising sharply and the number of deaths from coronavirus also rising.’
Mr Hancock suggested that localised crackdowns will be a part of life until a working vaccine is found and can be rolled out on a mass scale.
He said: ‘We know from bitter experience that the more coronavirus spreads, the harder it is to do all the other vital work of the NHS too.’
He continued: ‘The message to the public must be that we all have a part to play to control this virus.
‘Our strategy is simple – suppress the virus, supporting the economy, education and the NHS until a vaccine can make us safe.’
Mr Hancock said his ‘message to everyone in the NHS is that we can and we will get through this’.
‘Sadly, there will be more difficult times ahead but we will get through this together,’ he added.