'Going back to normal is a long way off': Matt Hancock reflects on Covid crisis

  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock defended the government's record on the coronavirus crisis on a visit to Newmarket Hospital

The Health Secretary Matt Hancock has squared up to criticism on how the government has handled the coronavirus pandemic on a visit to Newmarket Hospital.

He admitted that "going back to normal was a long way off" as scientists search for effective treatments and work to produce a vaccine.

Mr Hancock said: "The crisis isn't behind us, but the peak is."

He dismissed criticism that residents of care homes had not been protected by the government saying "as we've we've learnt more we have been able to put in place better guidelines."

In an interview with ITV News Anglia's Political Correspondent Emma Hutchinson, he said: "My heart goes out to everybody who had lost loved ones in care homes."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock praised health and social care staff on a visit to Newmarket hospital in his West Suffolk constituency. Credit: ITV News Anglia

The Health Secretary was meeting staff and patients at Newmarket Community Hospital and his first visit to his West Suffolk constituency since before lockdown in February.

He was struck down with Covid-19 in March but recovered after a week.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit hard in the Anglia region with more than 5,800 people dying.

Confirmed cases are still rising with 400 more positive tests in the past week.  Nearly 28,000 cases overall.

Recent infection hotspots have been identified in Bedford, Northampton and Peterborough but other areas like Norfolk have been relatively sheltered from the outbreak.

  • Watch a report by ITV News Anglia's Russell Hookey on the impact of coronavirus on the Anglia and the people affected

Overall the East of England has a lower infection rate than the country as a whole.

Matt Hancock said it was estimated that 6% of the UK population had been infected with coronavirus but it wasn't know whether they were now immune to the disease.

So he said there can be no let-up in social distancing measures until it was known whether people could be infected again or were still able to transmit Covid-19 to others.

The Health Secretary said it was a huge challenge that an estimated 70-80% of people did not display symptoms so they couldn't be tracked down or isolated.

  • Watch the full interview with Health Secretary Matt Hancock speaking to ITV News Anglia's Political Correspondent Emma Hutchinson

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know