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Matt Hancock warns businesses they will be forced to shut if they fail to comply with coronavirus rules

Matt Hancock said he 'absolutely' had the power to close firms failing to follow the rules

2 min read

Matt Hancock has said he will not hestitate to shut down business which fail to follow coronavirus rules as he defended the decision to reopen pubs and bars.

The Health Secretary said the Government were "not just asking nicely" for firms to follow the new Covid guidelines as he warned those caught flouting the rules would be forced to close.

It comes after thousands of people flocked pubs and bars across England on what was dubbed 'Super Saturday' following a major easing of lockdown restrictions.

But Mr Hancock defended the decision to restart the hospitality sector, saying "overall" people had acted responsibly.

Speaking to Sky's Sophy Ridge, he said: "Largely, although there are some pictures to the contrary, people have acted responsibly.

"Overall I am please with what happened yesterday."

His comments came after the chair of the Police Federation, John Apter, said it was "crystal clear" that drunk people were unable to follow social distancing guidelines.

Despite many police forces praising revellers for behaving responsibly, Mr Apter said during his shift in Southampton he had witnessed "anti-social behaviour, naked men, possession of class 'A' drugs, happy drunks, angry drunks, fights, more angry drunks."

But in a warning to firms, the Health Secretary said he "absolutely" had the power to close those who failed to implement the new 'Covid secure' guidelines aimed at reducing transmission of the virus.

"We also have the authourity to shut down a business if it doesn't follow that guidance," he said.

"We are not just asking nicely. We are very clear to businesses that these are their responsbilities."

He added: "For instance, the same goes for hospitality business to take the names and numbers of people that are there so we can do contact tracing if that is necessary."

Speaking on Friday, England's chief medical officer Chris Whitty said the "clear and disciplined" rules around social distancing in pubs were crucial to prevent a second surge in cases.

"None of us believe, and I’m sure nobody watching this believes, this is a risk-free next step. It is absolutely not, that is why we have to be really serious about it," he said.

"There’s no doubt these are environments whose principal job it is to bring people together, that’s a great thing to do socially but it’s also a great thing from the virus’s point of view.

"Therefore, we do have to have a really clear and really disciplined approach to try and maintain social distancing whilst also enjoying pubs."

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