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Matt Hancock Has Blamed Young People For A Spike In Covid Cases And Imposed Tougher Restrictions In Bolton

Matt Hancock introduced new restrictions in Bolton - blaming a rise in Covid-19 on young people (Parliamentlive.TV)

4 min read

Matt Hancock has introduced tough new restrictions in Bolton after a wave of new coronavirus infections, which he blamed on “socialising by people in their 20s and 30s”.

The health secretary told the Commons all pubs, bars and restaurants will go back to takeaway only in the Greater Manchester borough, and will have to close at 10pm.

Visits to care homes and hospitals will also be restricted after Bolton reported 120 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 of population - the highest rate in the country.

Mr Hancock said new figures from the ONS show weekly deaths from coronavirus have dropped to their lowest number since mid-March, but added: “However, we have seen a concerning rise in the number of positive cases, particularly among younger people, and these figures serve as a salutary reminder that this virus is still very much with us and remains a threat.

"So it is critical that we maintain our collective commitment to controlling this disease, and social distancing is the first line of defence.”

He said the “rise in cases in Bolton is partly due to socialising by people in their 20s and 30s, we know this from contact tracing", adding: "Through our contacting tracing system we've identified a number of pubs at which the virus has spread significantly.

"We're therefore taking the following action in Bolton starting immediately. 

“We will restrict all hospitality to takeaways only and we'll introduce a late-night restriction of operating hours, which will mean all venues will be required to close from 10pm to 5am.”

The Cabinet minister said countries like Spain, America, France had seen similar rises in positive cases among young people, which had then led to increased hospitalisations and deaths among older people.

“Crucially, we all have a part to play,” he said.

“Young people don't just spread the virus to each other, they spread the virus to their parents and their grandparents. 

“They spread it to those they come in contact with and to others who they love. 

“Now I know social distancing can be hard, and how it can be extra tough for students who will be starting University, but please stick with it and play your part in getting this virus under control.”

It comes after the entire Cabinet received an update from Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, and Chief Scientific Officer Sir Patrick Vallance on the coronavirus response, after figures showed almost 3,000 new cases were recorded across the UK yesterday.

After the meeting, a spokesman for Boris Johnson said: “The prime minister cautioned that in other countries which had seen an increase in infections, this was followed a number of weeks later by a rise in hospitalisations.

“The PM said that what had taken place elsewhere was that young people had gone on to infect older generations, who had become seriously ill, and it was vital to ensure that did not happen here.

“The PM said the government must remain extremely vigilant and ensure that there was no complacency from the public, and young people in particular, in following the guidance on how to prevent the virus from spreading.”

And Mr Hancock said in his statement that “just because we've come through one peak, it does not mean we cannot see another one coming”.

The health secretary also said problems with coronavirus testing capacity - which have seen people either unable to book a test or being directed to a testing centre hundreds of miles away - could take weeks to solve.

Appearing earlier on Tuesday in front of the Commons health select committee, he was asked about director of testing Sarah-Jane Marsh's tweet apologising for the problem, and replied: "We are working incredibly hard.

"We are doing everything we can. We have had these operational issues that I have talked about, we have had a problem with a couple of contracts and we discussed some of that in the House of Commons.

"But it's a matter of a couple of weeks until we can get all of that sorted in the short term.”

Earlier, Ms Marsh had posted on Twitter: "Can I please offer my heartfelt apologies to anyone who cannot get a Covid test at present. 

“All of our testing sites have capacity, which is why they don’t look overcrowded, its our laboratory processing that is the critical pinch-point. We are doing all we can to expand quickly.”

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