Matt Hancock insists 'herd immunity' not part of government's plan for tackling coronavirus
Matt Hancock has insisted that creating so-called "herd immunity" in the UK against coronavirus is not part of the Government's plan for tackling the killer illness.
Ministers have come in for criticism after reports that they wanted as many as 60% of Brits to contract the disease in a bid to prevent it spreading further among the population.
Speaking Radio Four's Today programme on Friday, chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said: "Our aim is to try and reduce the peak, broaden the peak, not suppress it completely; also, because the vast majority of people get a mild illness, to build up some kind of herd immunity so more people are immune to this disease and we reduce the transmission.
"At the same time we protect those who are most vulnerable to it. Those are the key things we need to do."
Critics claims that with an estimated mortality rate of around 1%, that approach could see hundreds of thousands of people die.
But writing in the Sunday Telegraph, the Health Secretary said the Government's plan was "based on the expertise of world-leading scientists".
Mr Hancock added: "Herd immunity is not a part of it. That is a scientific concept, not a goal or a strategy. Our goal is to protect life from this virus, our strategy is to protect the most vulnerable and protect the NHS through contain, delay, research and mitigate."
The Cabinet minister said the Government would be taking "dramatic action" to tackle the virus, including ordering manufacturing firms to build ventilators and other NHS equipment to cope with a surge in patients struck down by the illness.
"Our generation has never been tested like this," he added.
On Sunday the Government launched the next stage of an advertising blitz aimed at boosting public awareness of the disease's spread.
New television adverts featuring the chief medical officer and voiced by actor Mark Strong will stress the Government's call for frequent hand-washing and ask those with a high temperature or "new continuous cough" to self-isolate for seven days.
Mr Hancock said: "The Government and the NHS are working 24/7 to fight this virus. We must all work together and play our own part in protecting ourselves and each other, as well as our NHS, from this disease.
"This expanded campaign will focus on ensuring the public knows exactly what they should be doing to keep themselves and others safe."
It has also emerged that as well as banning large gatherings of people from next week, the Government will also order over-70s to stay at home for up to four months to protect them from the virus.