Matt Hancock warned 'don't move the goalposts' after revealing he's 'absolutely open' to two-week Freedom Day delay

MATT Hancock has been warned against moving the “goalposts” after he said he was “absolutely open” to delaying Freedom Day.

A decision is due this week on whether Covid restrictions will be lifted on June 21 amid reports it could be delayed to July 5 in an effort to make sure all those aged over 50 receive a second vaccine.

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Boris Johnson will examine the Covid stats this week to decide over lifting restrictions on June 21, the Health Secretary has revealed.

The Health Secretary said it was "too early" to determine whether the Government would lift all coronavirus restrictions later this month.

Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr he warned the Government is “absolutely open” to delaying 21 June and “the roadmap was set up in order to take these sort of changes into account”.

But the prospect of the date being moved back has been met with anger by Tory MPs, who warned any delay could cost jobs and more harm to people's mental and physical health.

Sir Desmond Swayne accused ministers of “wasting the advantages afforded by the success of vaccinations”.

“The original mission statement was to save lives by protecting the NHS. We've done that. The more it moves the goalposts, the more people will be made redundant.”

 

It comes as:

  • The Indian Covid strain is 40 per cent more transmissible than other Covid variants, Matt Hancock has warned
  • A maritime loophole allowed 600 cruise ship workers from India to fly here and avoid compulsory hotel quarantine
  • Boris will examine the Covid stats this week to decide over lifting restrictions on June 21
  • Brits in their 20s will get their Covid jabs this week
  • Twelve-year-olds are set to get the Covid vaccine from August under plans to tackle the Indian variant surge

Former Tory Cabinet minister David Jones said the health secretary has acknowledged that most people in hospital Covid have not been vaccinated.

“The answer is therefore to get as many people as possible vaccinated as quickly as possible,” he said.

“It is not to delay the lifting of lockdown, with the attendant damage to people's mental and physical wellbeing and to the economy.”

Senior Tory MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown pointed to "increasing frustration' among his colleagues over the restrictions".

"We've got to be really, really careful about getting panicked about every variant that comes along until we are absolutely sure there is one that is going to defeat the vaccine," he said

The Health Secretary told Marr that the Indian variant – now officially known as the Delta variant – had made the decisions behind the June 21 unlocking "more difficult".

He stressed the importance of people getting vaccinated to "break the link between the number of cases to the number of hospitalisations."

The majority of people going into hospital have not been vaccinated and he called on the under 30s to also get the jab.

He confirmed the latest advice is that the so-called Delta mutation is 40 per cent more transmissible than the Kent variant.

"That means that it is more difficult to manage this virus with the new Delta variant.

"But crucially, after two doses of vaccine we are confident that you get the same protection that you did with the old variant.

"So the good news is that the vaccine still works just as effectively.

"Everybody must go and get their second jab though because the first isn't as effective on its own."

Four tests to ease out of lockdown

  • Fall in cases – Data from Public Health England (PHE) suggests infection rates are falling across most of England with just a handful of areas witnessing a rise in infections. Fewer cases of coronavirus mean fewer hospitalisations and fewer deaths.
  • Reduce pressure on the NHS – A rise in cases leads to more hospitalisations, which is turn puts pressure on the NHS.
  • More vaccines – Millions of people have received a first dose of either the Pfizer/BioNTech jab or the Oxford/AstraZeneca offering.
  • A plan to control future outbreaks – Experts have said the government needs a plan that would mean future outbreaks could be effectively managed. They have highlighted that the biggest threat we now have is new variants.

Meanwhile, the president of the Academy of Medical Sciences said that the next week will be "absolutely critical" in looking at data on infections in the UK.

Dame Anne Johnson, professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at University College London, told the Trevor Phillips on Sunday programme on Sky News: "We need more data and this next week is going to be absolutely critical in obtaining that data."

She said there had been a "significant uptick" in the number of cases in the past week or two.

"What we need to understand is what the risks are of that setting off another wave of infection, and also how well we can do in controlling it so the data that come through in the next week are very important," she added.

The Health Secretary has also said the rules on social distancing after the final stage of lockdown easing have not yet been finalised.

He was pressed on whether people could be asked to continue to abide by some lockdown rules, such as continuing to work from home where possible,

"We consider all options and the way we have set this out is as follows," the Health Secretary replied.

"There are a series of things at the moment, restrictions on how you can live your life, that we've said will be part of Step 4 when we can take Step 4, which include, for instance, the rule of six and the fact there are still some businesses that are closed.

"We haven't yet set out the approach to social distancing after Step 4 and that is something we are working on with our scientific advisers.

"We will be guided by the science, but ultimately it will be ministers who make these decisions."

"As well as that we have four reviews into international travel, into certification and into social distancing, for instance, and we are concluding those reviews and doing that work at the same time.

"This week we will be opening up vaccines to the under-30s and so we are getting a step closer to the point when we have been able to offer the vaccine to all adults in this country.

"Then, once we have got everybody having had their second dose, then you will get this protection that we are seeing at the moment among older people, you'll get that protection throughout the whole adult population."

There are reports that the June 21 Freedom Day may be delayed by two weeks with sources telling ITV News that plans are being made to push it back to July 5.

The Sun revealed yesterday how a secret plan is being worked on to delay lockdown lifting by two weeks.

Ministers and officials are working on contingency plans to move “Freedom Day” to next month, as well as retaining distancing and limits on fans in stadiums – potentially plunging the Euros into chaos.

It comes after a Public Health England report showed people who tested positive for the Indian variant – also known as the Delta variant – were at 161 per cent more risk of needing hospital treatment within 14 days.

And experts warned the Indian Covid mutation could be 100 per cent more infectious than the Kent variant, which caused the country to lockdown in January.

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