You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

'It's on all of us': Hancock warns easing lockdown could be slower than PM's timeline

Sky News logo Sky News 4 days ago Greg Heffer, political reporter

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned the government's timeline for unlocking coronavirus restrictions won't be sped up - and could even be slowed as ministers remain "vigilant" against infection rates.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set out a four-stage roadmap for lifting England's lockdown over the next four months, with a five-week gap between each stage.

Some Conservative MPs have complained the roadmap, beginning with the return of all pupils to schools on 8 March, doesn't remove restrictions fast enough.

But, speaking to Sky News, Mr Hancock described the five-week gap between each stage of easing restrictions as "vital".

a train crossing a bridge over a body of water: The government aims to ease lockdown in four stages over the next four months © PA The government aims to ease lockdown in four stages over the next four months

"It's very, very important that we can see the impact of one step before taking the next step," he said.

"There's a vital need to keep watching the data and for all us, the whole of society, to stick with this plan.

____________________________________________________

More on coronavirus:

Download the Microsoft News app for full coverage of the crisis

Step by step: How England's lockdown will be lifted (The Guardian)

How would vaccine and testing certificates work? (Sky News)

____________________________________________________

"We want to be able to hit those milestones, but we will be vigilant and watch what's happening to make sure it's safe to make each move.

"The prime minister set out the four tests we will apply before announcing each move can go ahead.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 17: Health Secretary Matt Hancock visits The Queen Elizabeth Hospital on February 17, 2021 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Molly Darlington - WPA Pool/Getty Images) © 2021 Getty Images BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 17: Health Secretary Matt Hancock visits The Queen Elizabeth Hospital on February 17, 2021 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Molly Darlington - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

"Of course we want to make the moves at the dates that are set out.

"But it's on all of us to make sure we can by continuing to follow the rules between now and then as the vaccine rollout continues and as the really, really positive impact of those vaccines takes effect.

"This is on all of us."

Mr Hancock said that ministers were "absolutely determined" to come out of England's third national lockdown "as fast as safely possible, but no faster", with the aim of making the removal of restrictions "irreversible".

DURHAM, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 22: A general view of the outside of the Arnison Vaccination Centre in Durham on February 22, 2021 in Durham, England. The Arnison Centre site is the third Large Vaccination Centre for the North East region to open and joins the two Large Vaccination Centres which are at Newcastle’s Centre for Life and the NHS Nightingale Hospital North East, Sunderland and will increase the capacity to help the NHS vaccinate as many people as possible as quickly as possible. The Durham site will be known as the Arnison Vaccination Centre and is based at the Arnison shopping and retail park. The location was chosen in consultation with local partners for its accessible location and good public transport links. The Centre will be run by clinical staff, people who have been trained to become vaccinators, administrative staff and a range of volunteers. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images) © 2021 Getty Images DURHAM, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 22: A general view of the outside of the Arnison Vaccination Centre in Durham on February 22, 2021 in Durham, England. The Arnison Centre site is the third Large Vaccination Centre for the North East region to open and joins the two Large Vaccination Centres which are at Newcastle’s Centre for Life and the NHS Nightingale Hospital North East, Sunderland and will increase the capacity to help the NHS vaccinate as many people as possible as quickly as possible. The Durham site will be known as the Arnison Vaccination Centre and is based at the Arnison shopping and retail park. The location was chosen in consultation with local partners for its accessible location and good public transport links. The Centre will be run by clinical staff, people who have been trained to become vaccinators, administrative staff and a range of volunteers. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

"This isn't just about choices the government makes, it's actually about how everyone responds and pulls together," he added.

"So, for now, it is so important that people stick to the existing rules.

"We can see the light at the end of the tunnel and the best way is for everybody to keep abiding by the rules, as they are in very, very large part."

The health secretary hailed data published by Public Health England on the impact of the UK's vaccination programme, which has so far seen more than 17.7 million offered a first dose of a COVID vaccine.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2021/02/22: A lady wearing a face mask walks pass a covid testing sign in London.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveils plan to end England restrictions. A new four-step plan to ease England's lockdown could see all legal limits on social contact lifted by 21 June, if strict conditions are met. (Photo by May James/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) © 2021 SOPA Images LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2021/02/22: A lady wearing a face mask walks pass a covid testing sign in London. Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveils plan to end England restrictions. A new four-step plan to ease England's lockdown could see all legal limits on social contact lifted by 21 June, if strict conditions are met. (Photo by May James/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

"The evidence published by Public Health England yesterday demonstrates that there is a reduction of around 70% in your chance of catching the virus, and there's obviously a link from that to transmissibility," he said.

"If you don't have the virus, you can't easily transmit it. And then an even bigger impact in terms of death and hospitalisations.

"So this is a really, really good result. I had confidence we would get a vaccine, I have huge confidence in the NHS to rollout the vaccine and it's wonderful to see the effect of the vaccine saving lives in the UK right now.

"Not just in a lab, not just in a trial, but the vaccines are saving lives right now."

Nurse Maggie Clark prepares to administer a dose of the AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine to a patient at a vaccination centre set up at the Fiveways Islamic Centre and Mosque in Nottingham, central England, on February 22, 2021. - Coronavirus vaccines do not contain pork or make you infertile: a celebrity advertising pitch is striving to counter a worrying lag among certain ethnic minorities affecting Britain's otherwise impressive inoculation campaign. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images) Nurse Maggie Clark prepares to administer a dose of the AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine to a patient at a vaccination centre set up at the Fiveways Islamic Centre and Mosque in Nottingham, central England, on February 22, 2021. - Coronavirus vaccines do not contain pork or make you infertile: a celebrity advertising pitch is striving to counter a worrying lag among certain ethnic minorities affecting Britain's otherwise impressive inoculation campaign. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

Labour's shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds suggested her party were broadly supportive of the prime minister's roadmap, despite "concerns" about the absence of detail over continued support for businesses while they wait to reopen.

"We've consistently said the government must follow the data, that they must be listening to scientists around reopening," she told Sky News.

"And, certainly, it felt like we'd seen a real change from the prime minister yesterday, that he did seem to be focused on that evidence.

"We do have a number of concerns about the approach of government, particularly the fact that we didn't have any clarity around business support when these changes were announced.

"It's the fourth time that has happened.

"But, in terms of having a more gradual approach, when that's justified by the evidence, yes we do think that's sensible."

__________________________

Stay alert to stop coronavirus spreading - here is the latest government guidance. If you think you have the virus, don't go to the GP or hospital, stay indoors and get advice online. Only call NHS 111 if you cannot cope with your symptoms at home; your condition gets worse; or your symptoms do not get better after seven days. In parts of Wales where 111 isn't available, call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47. In Scotland anyone with symptoms is advised to self-isolate for seven days. In Northern Ireland, call your GP.

AdChoices
AdChoices

More from Sky News

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon