Matt Hancock has warned over the “first credible” instances of coronavirus reinfections, as he outlined growing concern over a recent surge in positive cases of the disease.
The health secretary’s comments came after the UK recorded close to 3,000 new cases of Covid-19 – for a second day running – with a particular rise highlighted among younger people.
Appearing at the Commons Health and Social Care Committee, Mr Hancock said on Tuesday the government was also starting to see instances of reinfections of the virus, but that all had been asymptomatic cases.
He told MPs that through genomic analysis “you can see it is a different disease to the one the person got the first time round”, adding: “In all cases that I have seen it has been an asymptotic second infection that has been picked up through asymptomatic testing.”
"But the hard question is, because one of the most difficult parts of dealing with this virus is asymptomatic transmission what we don't yet know is the transmissibility of the disease even from an asymptomatic person who might have had the disease before.
"But we have got a huge amount of work going into answering that question."
Pressed on concerns of a second wave of coronavirus in the UK, the cabinet minister added he was “obviously concerned” about a surge in positive results of the virus.
“There is no inevitability to a second peak,” he said. “It depends on the actions that all of us take. Of course in government we’re concerned about this and we keep all options open, but everybody has a part to play.”
He later told the committee: “It is for all of us to take this very seriously indeed. We’ve seen in other countries if you don’t take a second spike seriously then it can lead to very serious problems down the track.
“I want us if at all possible to get to a position where we can all have the sort of Christmas that people yearn for. But that will require everyone to play their part, follow the social distancing, follow basic hygiene.”
On Monday evening, the deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam issued concern over the rise in cases because “people have relaxed too much”, as he urged the public to start taking the pandemic “very seriously again” or face a “bumpy ride over the next few months”.
Echoing the concerns of his deputy, Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England said: “We have, through the extraordinary efforts of the whole population, got Covid rates right down.
“They are now rising again especially in those aged 17 to 29. If we stop social distancing Covid comes back. We all need to protect others.”
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