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Speaking to MPs the Health Secretary said there were four key criteria to lowering the coronavirus restrictions the public was currently living under. As well as a drop in the number of hospitalisations and deaths, Mr Hancock warned the return to normal life was conditional on there not being a new mutant strain of the virus.
He told the Commons Health Select Committee: “We’ve set out the conditions we will look at for the relaxation of the restrictions, which are: that there isn’t another major new variant which causes difficulties of the disease, that the vaccination programme is working, and the number of hospitalisations and deaths are coming down.
“I don’t have a fixed number of any one of those four in my head and we don’t have any fixed thresholds on it, but you can see the direction of travel.”
England was plunged into its third lockdown of the pandemic on Wednesday after a surge in cases across the country caused by a new distinction of COVID-19.
The new variant was first discovered in Kent and is up to 70 percent more transmissible than the original strain.
It has now spread to the rest of the UK and has caused a sharp spike in cases.
In the past seven days there have been 403,914 positive test results, up 43 percent on the previous week.
The Health Secretary’s comments come after Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said on Tuesday Covid restrictions could be reimposed towards the end of this year.
“We’ll get over time to a point where people say this level of risk is something society is prepared to tolerate and lift right down to almost no restrictions at all,” he said at a televised coronavirus briefing.
“We might have to bring in a few in the next winter for example, that’s possible, because winter will benefit the virus.”
Speaking today Mr Hancock also said coronavirus vaccines may need to be administerd on an annual basis going forwards, like the flu vaccine, due to coronavirus continually mutating.
He remained optimistic the changes to the jab could be made quickly and be rolled out without requiring lengthy trials.
The West Suffolk MP told MPs: “As with the flu vaccine each year, for a given type of vaccine that’s been clinically trailed and approved, then it may not need the full year-long trial process that a new vaccine needs.
“That of course is a decision for the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.
“The way I’ve described it is if you have a car and you’re lucky enough to have a Range Rover and you get a new wing mirror stuck on It, it’s still a Range Rover and should be classified as such.
“In the same way, if you make a small change to a vaccine it is a regulatory clinical decision as to whether it needs to go through the full three stages of clinical trials.”
More to follow…
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