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Tier 4 could last months, Hancock suggests as he links restriction to vaccine rollout

‘We’ve got a long way to go to sort this,’ health secretary admits

Emily Goddard
Sunday 20 December 2020 10:52 GMT
Tier 4 could last months, Hancock suggests as he links to vaccine rollout

Restrictions that cancelled Christmas for millions of people across the UK may have to remain for “the next couple of months”, the health secretary has suggested.

Matt Hancock warned that keeping the new coronavirus variant under control until a vaccine had been rolled out will be “very difficult”.

“We’ve got to get this under control and the cases in tier 4 areas have absolutely rocketed in the last two weeks or so,” he told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme.

“We’ve got to get that vaccine rolled out to keep people safe.”

Coronavirus UK news - live: Tier 4 ‘could last months’, and more police deployed on trains out of London

Asked if people living under tier 4 restrictions could expect to continue to do so until the vaccine is rolled out, the health secretary said: “Given how much faster this new variant spreads, it is going to be very difficult to keep it under control until that vaccine is rolled out.”

Boris Johnson put some 20 million people in London and the southeast and east of England under the tougher stay-at-home measures on Sunday after the discovery of a new, more infectious variant of coronavirus.

Under the tier 4 rules, non-essential shops, gyms, cinemas, casinos and hairdressers have to stay shut and people are limited to meeting one other person from another household in an outdoor public space.

Those in tier 4 were told they should not travel out of the region, while those living outside were advised against visiting.

“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,” Mr Hancock said.

Those living outside of tier 4 areas in England also had Christmas easing severely curtailed, with households allowed to gather for a single day – 25 December – rather than the five days previously planned.

Scotland and Wales are restricting festive “bubbles” to just Christmas Day, while people in Northern Ireland have been asked to consider forming a bubble for the single day only.

Wales also mirrored the tier 4 restrictions in England by bringing forward alert level 4 measures to Sunday, while Scotland has said its travel ban with the rest of the UK will now remain in place throughout the festive period.

Parliament, which is in recess, will vote on the rules in January, Mr Hancock said, adding there was not the time to recall before tier 4 was implemented on Sunday.

The statutory instrument was made at 6am on Sunday, and must be approved by both the House of Commons and House of Lords within 28 days, otherwise, the change to the law is reversed as per a process known as the “made affirmative procedure”.

Mr Hancock said he hopes 500,000 people in the UK will have received the first of two doses of the coronavirus vaccine by the end of the weekend.

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