'Close borders, schools and ban household mixing now' - Jeremy Hunt

4 January 2021, 13:24 | Updated: 4 January 2021, 14:09

Jeremy Hunt has demanded the immediate closure or schools and a ban on household mixing
Jeremy Hunt has demanded the immediate closure or schools and a ban on household mixing. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has called for the immediate closure of schools, borders to be shut and all household mixing to be banned to curb the winter Covid surge.

The chairman of the Commons Health and Social Care Committee took to Twitter to warn ministers that now is the "time to act" if the UK is to get a grip of rising coronavirus cases.

Responding to those who say the troubles hospitals are currently facing are normal for this time of year, Mr Hunt said: "You are wrong."

"I faced four serious winter crises as Health Sec and the situation now is off-the-scale worse than any of those."

The South West Surrey MP said the government "cannot afford to wait" and that it should learn lessons from other countries "that act early and decisively, save lives and get their economies back to normal faster".

"All schools should be closed, international travel stopped, household mixing limited and the tier system reviewed so that the highest tier really does bring down infection levels," he added.

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Mr Hunt warned that emergency care "is under severe pressure" due to record trolley waits for the sickest patients.

He also said he feared heart attack patients are not calling 999 when they need to because of the pandemic.

The former health secretary then called on ministers to put NHS workers who are risking their lives to help those with Covid-19 "at the front of the queue for vaccines".

"This will stop our hospitals falling over and help keep their patients safe," he said.

"It is also our moral duty."

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"The good news is that unlike before these restrictions will be time limited to the 12 weeks or so it will take to get the vaccine out to those most vulnerable to Covid - so there is light at the end of the tunnel," he added.

"I know all these things will be under consideration with decisions potentially imminent.

"My point is in the face of exponential growth even waiting an extra day causes many avoidable deaths so these plans must now be urgently accelerated."

The backbench MP told his followers that the new strain of coronavirus emerging in the middle of winter "is clearly having a massive impact" on the number of hospital beds being taken up by Covid patients.

The chairman of the Commons Health and Social Care Committee wrote on Twitter: "Time to act: thread on why we need to close schools, borders, and ban all household mixing RIGHT AWAY.

"To those arguing winter is always like this in the NHS: you are wrong. I faced four serious winter crises as Health Sec and the situation now is off-the-scale worse than any of those.

"It's true that we often had to cancel elective care in Jan to protect emergency care but that too is under severe pressure with record trolley waits for the very sickest patients.

"Even more worryingly fewer heart attack patients appear to be presenting in ICUs, perhaps because they are not dialling 999 when they need to.

"Full credit to NHS for keeping cancer services open but in Wave 1 there was still a 2/3 drop in cancer appts: people didn't come forward to GPs or want to go to hospitals, with many potentially avoidable cancer deaths. We hoped to avoid that this time but now looking unlikely."

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