Call the Cabinet: Hancock warns over young people spreading Covid-19

7 September 2020, 09:23 | Updated: 11 September 2020, 12:46

Matt Hancock urges young people to take social distancing more seriously

By Asher McShane

Health Secretary Matt Hancock today issued a stark warning against complacency in the fight against Covid-19 after a surge in cases.

Speaking on LBC's new phone-in programme Call the Cabinet, Mr Hancock said: "The rise in the number of cases we've seen is concerning because we've seen a rise in cases in France, in Spain and in other countries across Europe. Nobody wants to see a second wave here.

He said the rise was primarily among more affluent younger people who were not following social distancing rules.

"People must follow the social distancing rules. We see cases where [people] are not," he said.

He referred to a case where a pub in Bolton was forced to close, and a chicken factory being closed in Norfolk.

Read more: Caller confronts Matt Hancock after being told to travel 341 miles for a Covid-19 test

Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned of young people spreading covid
Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned of young people spreading covid. Picture: LBC

"We are seeing problems with social distancing. The rise in cases is largely among younger people, under 25s, especially between 17 and 21.

"The message is that even though you are at lower risk of dying of Covid if you are of that age, you can still have really serious symptoms and consequences.

"Also you can infect other people."

"Inevitably it leads to older people catching it from them [the young]. Spreading the disease amongst young people leads to older people getting it.

"It is important for everybody to wash your hands and follow social distancing. It's 'hands, face, space.'

"We will take action if people go to big social events that are completely inappropriate in a time of coronavirus."

Yesterday the UK recorded 2,988 new confirmed cases of coronavirus in the highest rise since the end of May.

There were 2 additional deaths announced in the figures released on Sunday - taking the UK's total to 41,551 - and 124 more patients admitted to hospital.

The figures also revealed 756 people are in hospital with Covid-19, 69 of which are on ventilator beds.

Read more: Hancock urges people to return to Covid-secure workplaces

Commuters in masks arriving at Leeds railway station today
Commuters in masks arriving at Leeds railway station today. Picture: PA

The figures are a stark rise from Saturday which saw 1,813 confirmed cases.

The figure is the highest number since 23 May, when 2,959 cases were recorded.

Yesterday Mr Hancock warned the rise in new cases were predominantly among the young. He said: "We are concerned about the number of cases we've seen in the last 24 hours... the rise is predominantly among younger people... but young people can infect their grandparents.

"Don't pass the disease on to your grandparents."

Shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, tweeted: "Deeply concerning increase in cases and a stark reminder there is no room for complacency in suppressing Covid."

Paul Hunter, a professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, warned the UK could be entering "a period of exponential growth" in the spread of the virus.

He said: "This is especially concerning for a Sunday when report numbers are generally lower than most other days of the week.

"Some of that increase may be because of catch-up from delayed tests over the past few days due to the widely reported difficulties the UK testing service has faced dealing with the number of tests being requested.

"Nevertheless, this represents a marked increase in the seven-day rolling average of 1,812 cases per day compared to 1,244 a week ago and 1,040 a week before that."

Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England, said most of the new cases are people tested in the community, and that the situation was being monitored.

She said: "There were broad increases in cases of Covid-19 across England and although no single area accounts for the overnight change, Birmingham had the largest increase in overnight cases and the majority of new cases were in the north of England.

"This is a reminder of the continued risk from this virus. People should continue to follow social distancing rules, wash their hands regularly and wear a face covering in enclosed spaces."

In a separate development, five members of teaching staff at a school in Suffolk tested positive for Covid-19, with the academy closed on Monday on the advice of Public Health England.

Two other members of staff at the Samuel Ward Academy in Haverhill are waiting to hear their coronavirus test results.

The school said in a statement that the closure was a "precautionary measure" and it hoped to reopen on Tuesday.

Headteacher Andy Hunter said: "The safety of pupils and all those who work at the school is my biggest priority.

"Obviously this is a huge disappointment after working so hard to get the school back up and running.

"I will be looking closely at the systems we put in place to try to understand how the transmission occurred and to make sure we do everything possible to limit the chances of the same thing happening again.

"I am very disappointed by this disrupted start to the school term.

"We have taken very extensive precautions.

"We were delighted that term had started so well last week and were looking forward to the final two year groups starting (on Monday).

"But I have had excellent support from Public Health England, Public Health Suffolk and Suffolk County Council.

"We are determined to do all we can to stop the further spread of the virus and agree with the precautionary action to close the school (on Monday)."

A deep clean is to take place at the school.

Anyone who has been in close contact with infected staff has been contacted and asked to self-isolate for 14 days, the school said.

Further contact tracing will continue and additional pupils and staff may be asked to self-isolate.

Stuart Keeble, director of public health at Suffolk County Council, said: "Understandably, this news may worry parents across Suffolk, but it is important to remember that the risk of children contracting Covid-19 is still very small.

"Evidence suggests that children are more likely to contract Covid-19 at home."

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