The UK’s new lockdown restrictions could remain in place for several months until vaccines have been rolled out across the country, Matt Hancock has said.
Millions are now living under tougher, tier 4 measures after Boris Johnson abandoned a planned Christmas easing of restrictions – and imposed what is tantamount to a new lockdown as the government struggles to contain a new strain of the coronavirus.
On Sunday, the health secretary said the additional restrictions for England announced by Johnson on Saturday evening may have to stay for “the next couple of months” while a vaccine is rolled out.
“What is really important is that people not only follow them [the new rules] but everybody in a tier 4 area acts as if you have the virus to stop spreading it to other people,” he told Sky News.
“We know with this new variant you can catch it more easily from a small amount of the virus being present.
“All of the different measures we have in place, we need more of them to control the spread of the new variant than we did to control the spread of the old variant. That is the fundamental problem.
“We know that because we know that in November that in the areas where this new variant started, in Kent, the cases carried on rising whereas in the rest of the country the November lockdown worked very effectively.
“It is an enormous challenge, until we can get the vaccine rolled out to protect people. This is what we face over the next couple of months.”
Keeping the new Covid-19 variant under control until a vaccine is widely-administered would be “very difficult”, Hancock added.
“The cases in the tier 4 areas have absolutely rocketed in the last few days – the last two weeks or so. We have got a long way to go to solve this,” he said.