Matt Hancock says reports of over-50s lockdown ‘inaccurate’ — but Number 10 won’t rule it out
Health Secretary Matt Hancock (Credit: PA)
Matt Hancock has dismissed reports the Government is examining the possibility of a second coronavirus lockdown for over-50s — but Number 10 have refused to rule it out.
The Health Secretary said reports over the weekend of people aged between 50 and 70 being given personalised risk ratings, with some being told to stay at home as part of a strategy to counter a potential second wave, were "inaccurate".
He told Sky News: "We’ve paused the shielding programme because the number of infections is so low.
"The reports with respect to the over 50s are inaccurate and they’re speculation, but we’ll always do whatever is necessary to keep people safe."
According to reports, Boris Johnson asked officials to prepare a suite of possible measures, including telling vulnerable people to remain at home while the rest of the population continued to move around freely.
Those at enhanced risk could be allocated specific times of the week for exclusive access to some services and shops, it was suggested, with other potential measures including imposing a city-wide lockdown on London also being examined.
Asked on Monday to rule out age-based restrictions, the PM's spokesman would only say: “It’s inaccurate.
"In terms of what is our approach — you don’t need to speculate on it. It’s set out in the roadmap and in the contain strategy.
“It is for localised action to stop outbreaks as and where we find them.”
He added: “It’s certainly not something that I’m aware of. We continue to look at the best available scientific and medical advice.
"You can see what our approach and you can see it in action, which is to focus on taking action at a local level.”
The comments come after a major incident was declared in Greater Manchester following an increase in infection rates there.
Ministers have already moved to ban contact between different households in parts of the north of England, and the designation will allow local leaders to call on more national resources to respond to the outbreak.
Leader of Manchester City Council Richard Leese said: "People should not be alarmed that a major incident has been declared.
"This is standard practice for complex situations which require a multi-agency response.
"Although the council and partner organisations have been working closely to tackle the impacts of the pandemic since early this year, declaring a major incident means we can ramp this up further.
"It allows the establishment of a central command structure to oversee the response and enables agencies involved to draw on extra resources."
The Government on Monday outlined plans to expand coronavirus testing capacity, with two new tests promised which will allow people to find out whether they have the virus within 90 minutes.
Mr Hancock said the Government's new testing capacity target — which aims to build capacity for 500,000 tests to be carried out per day by the start of October — would form a key part of controlling a potential second spike in infections.
"We’ve known throughout this crisis that there’s been a huge challenge in expanding the testing capacity and I’ve really driven that as hard as possible," he said.
"And as I’ve set out to parliament, there’s been challenges all the way through, but what this new testing capacity will allow us to do is expand the areas where we can test and make sure, crucially, that we get that turnaround faster, so people get the result as soon as possible."