No end to lockdown in sight as Matt Hancock stays tight-lipped on UK Covid plan

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock has adamantly refused to put any timescale whatsoever on the UK government's plan to lift the national coronavirus lockdown in England.

The health secretary, who was forced to self isolate earlier this month after receiving a ping from NHS Test and Trace himself, was speaking from No.10 Downing Street on Monday afternoon.

When asked when and how the current national lockdown in England will be lifted, the health secretary replied: "Right now we have 37,000 people in hospital with coronavirus – almost twice as many as the first peak back in April.

"There are more people on ventilators than at any time in this whole pandemic, so the pressure on the NHS remains huge as we have got to get that case rate down.

"Of course I understand the yearning people have to get out of this.

"The thing is that we have to look at the facts on the ground and we have to monitor those facts, and of course everybody wants to have a timeline for that but I think most people understand why it is difficult to put a timeline on it, because it is a matter of monitoring the data.

"The prime minister has said that we would be looking at the death rate, the number if hospitalisations, the new variants that affect the pandemic and the success of the vaccine rollout, so we'll look at all of these factors and make sure we take the steps as soon as it's safe to do so.

"I understand why people want to know the answer but it is difficult, hence we've set out what we'll be looking at."

Dr Jenny Harries, one of England's deputy chief medical officers, added: "We are not out of this by a very long way."

The news comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson refused to give guarantees that schools would reopen before Easter.

The PM said: "Believe me there's nothing I want to do more than reopen schools, I've fought to keep schools open for as long as I possibly could.

"We want to see schools back as fast as possible, we want to do that in a way that is consistent with fighting the epidemic and keeping the infection rate down."

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The Prime Minister's remarks appeared to spark confusion about what "looking at" easing restrictions would look like.

It now appears he meant conversations about easing restrictions – rather than the easing itself – could happen by February 15.

Moments after his comments, a Number 10 source clarified: "The PM’s quote on the 15th is being misinterpreted. That remains the earliest point at which we could change any of the rules."

What would you like the government to do with our nation's schools during the Covid pandemic? Let us know in the comments below

  • Boris Johnson
  • NHS
  • Coronavirus
  • Lockdown

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