New lockdown restrictions imposed on Saturday on millions of people may have to remain in place for several months until vaccines have been rolled out across the UK, the health secretary said.
It follows Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to abandon attempts to avoid tighter COVID restrictions, and instead placing millions of people in London and the South-East under the new tier 4 measures, The Guardian reported.
On Sunday, Matt Hancock said additional restrictions for England announced by the prime minister on Saturday may have to remain 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’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme.
“We know with this new variant you can catch it more easily from a small amount of the virus being present,” he said.
“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,” he added.
“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,” Hancock said.
“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,” he said.
Hancock said that keeping the new coronavirus variant under control until a vaccine had been rolled out would be “very difficult”.
“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.