Hancock warns social distancing to become ‘social norm’ despite plans to lift lockdown

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The Health Secretary was grilled on BBC Breakfast on Tuesday morning about Boris Johnson’s recently announced timeline for the lifting of the UK lockdown. Host Charlie Stayt grilled Matt Hancock for details on how long the two-metre rule will remain in place. Mr Hancock insisted that some form of social distancing and mask-wearing may remain even after England starts to unlock on March 8. He added that many Britons may decide to maintain a distance from others on public transport for example as part of a new “social norm.”

Mr Hancock told BBC Breakfast: “What we want to get to is a position where this is just a matter of personal responsibility and social norms.

“I would expect a world where lots of people choose for instance when they go on the bus or the tube in London to wear a mask.

“And that to be just normal but not of it to be legislated for and required in law.

“But we are too soon to be able to say now when for instance the two-metre and the one metre plus rule can be relaxed.”

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Under the Prime Ministers plan, the phased ending of lockdown in England will begin on March 8 with all schools reopening and people allowed to socialise with one other person from outside their household.

It will be followed by a gradual opening up of the economy over the next four months to most restrictions being scrapped just before midsummer.

At least five weeks will separate each stage to ensure four key tests covering the speed and effectiveness of the vaccination programme, the pressure on the NHS and the emergence of news mutant coronavirus strains.

The Prime Minister said his Government will do “whatever it takes to protect jobs and livelihoods across the UK” with further financial help on top of the £280billion already committed expected in Rishi Sunak’s budget next week.



Boris Johnson promises 'light ahead' as he plans to lift lockdown

“It is thanks to the vaccinations that there is light ahead leading us to a spring and summer which I think will be seasons of hope, looking and feeling incomparably better for us all and from which we will not go back,” the Prime Minister said at a Downing Street news conference last night.

But he warned the easing of restrictions will lead to a rise in hospitalisations and deaths from Covid.

“No vaccine against any disease has ever been 100% effective,” the Prime Minister said.

“So whenever we ease the lockdown, whether it is today or in six or nine months, we’ve got to be realistic and accept that there will be more infections, more hospitalisations and therefore – sadly – more deaths, just as there are every year with flu.”

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Government scientific advisers forecast a third wave of the virus that could kill more than 100,000 more people, a document released from Whitehall last night showed.

Mr Johnson insisted the key dates in his road map were the earliest possible moments for lifting restrictions and could be pushed back if four new tests covering vaccinations and infection rates are not met.

He said he would “rather trade some haste for certainty” in setting his timetable.

Announcing his long-awaited road map out of lockdown to MP at Westminster, the Prime Minister said: “I say that today the end really is in sight and a wretched year will give way to a spring and a summer that will be very different and incomparably better than the picture we see around us today.”

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