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Matt Hancock confirms the government is ready to announce national lockdown 'if necessary'

Health Secretary Matt Hancock appeared on Good Morning Britain today and said the government is prepared to announce another national lockdown “if that is what’s necessary”.

When Piers Morgan asked Hancock if he’s ‘lost control’ over the speed of which the new variant of coronavirus is spreading, Hancock said: “The new variant is much, much harder because it transmits so much easier from one person to another and basically because you need to come into contact only with a very tiny amount of it to catch the disease.”

Susanna Reid added Tier 4 isn’t suppressing the infection and asked Hancock why the government isn’t locking down nationally like it did on March 23rd, and Hancock said: “We had those measures calibrated against the old variant which doesn’t spread as much as the new one. There are parts of the country where this is rising the fastest that are in Tier 3 and clearly we are prepared to take the sort of action, including the sort of action you’ve just described Susanna, if that is what’s necessary.”

Piers Morgan asked again why they’re waiting to announce a national lockdown and Hancock replied: “It’s about not only the measures we put in place Piers, but it’s about how everybody responds to them. On Good Morning Britain, you have been unbelievably responsible in explaining to people how important it is because it’s on all of us. Ultimately, the reason this virus gets from one person to another is when you come into close physical proximity and that’s why just staying apart and staying at home, unless you have a very good reason not to, they are so important to control the virus.”

Piers said there needs to be clarity and a national lockdown needs to be enforced. Hancock said: “We are prepared to take the action that’s necessary and sometimes very rapidly. When we found out this variant spread so much faster, we moved within just over 24 hours to bring in Tier 4. We look at this data all the time… We also look at how much of the new spread is the new variant because we know it’s so much easier to pass on, so we do look at this data daily.”

Susanna said Tier 4 isn’t suppressing the virus and asked again why the government isn't moving quickly on announcing a national lockdown. Hancock said: “We are prepared to move quickly, that’s my answer and we are prepared to take whatever action is necessary. We have demonstrated that. We often get criticised for moving too fast, people say, ‘There’s no certainty.’ We look at the data all the time and we will take the action that’s needed based on Public Health advice.”

He added: “At the moment the fastest rises are in the Tier 3 areas and if we need to move Tier 3 into Tier 4. About the degree of compliance, there is a very serious problem in that people need to comply, but there’s very good evidence that the vast majority of people do comply, the challenge is it’s so much harder with the new variant and that’s leading to these pressures on the NHS, which are very serious.” 

Piers Morgan asked Hancock if it’s safe for children to return to school and he said: “Children are very, very unlikely to have the disease if they catch coronavirus and to be ill and that’s really important to continue to reassure people, that is true for the new variant as well as the old variant. As a father myself, that matters… When schools are open, that can lead to an increase in the transmission, hence in the most impacted areas where the pressures on the NHS are the greatest, we have said schools should not open…. As the data changes, so we have to act and that’s what we’ve done with respect to schools.”

On the pressures on the NHS, Hancock said: “The staff across the NHS have done an absolutely brilliant job. There are huge pressures now in some parts of the country. I’m pleased we were able to give a significant pay rise to all NHS nurses right across the board. There is a mission across the NHS which is to care for people and all colleagues in the NHS are working incredibly hard.” 

He concluded: “Over the next few weeks, we all have to do our bit to control the virus and not to pass it on, to minimise these pressures as much as possible on the NHS, knowing our vaccine is on the way.”

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