'We could live with Covid like we do flu by end of year', Hancock says

13 February 2021, 08:17

Matt Hancock said he hopes the UK can live with Covid like it does flu by the end of 2021
Matt Hancock said he hopes the UK can live with Covid like it does flu by the end of 2021. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Vaccines and treatments could help us live with Covid-19 "like we do flu" by the end of the year, Matt Hancock has said.

The health secretary told the Daily Telegraph that new drugs and jabs designed to fight coronavirus could make it a "treatable disease" before 2021 is over.

He said that new medication being rolled out this year represents the UK's "way out to freedom".

Mr Hancock also appeared to suggest that he sees Britain living with the virus in the coming years, rather than eliminating it entirely.

The health secretary told the paper he hoped all adults in the UK will be offered a dose of the vaccine "a bit before" September.

Read more: Pubs and restaurants 'to be allowed to serve outdoors from April'

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So far, the number of people to receive their first shot in Britain stands just above 14 million, while more than 530,000 have been administered their second dose.

New treatments will also be necessary for some people who may not be protected by the coronavirus vaccines, Mr Hancock said.

Currently, the UK has approved two drugs - dexamethasone and tocilizumab - for those people who may not be helped by the jabs.

Together, the drugs can lower the risk of death in the illest patients by around 40 per cent, UK trials have suggested.

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Read more: Britain's Covid R number drops below 1 for first time since July

The health secretary said treatments like these could play a vital role in "turning Covid from a pandemic that affects all of our lives into another illness that we have to live with, like we do flu. That's where we need to get Covid to over the months to come".

He added: "If Covid-19 ends up like flu, so we live our normal lives and we mitigate through vaccines and treatments, then we can get on with everything again."

Mr Hancock listed factors that he believed were necessary for coronavirus to become treatable by 2021's end, which included reducing the number of people admitted to hospital with the disease, bringing down the number of deaths and cutting the transmission of the virus.

His comments come amid reports that pubs and restaurants will be permitted to serve people outdoors from April if Covid-19 cases continue to fall.

People in England have been long-awaiting the reopening of the hospitality sector after the government was forced to close it to deal with the rapidly growing number of coronavirus cases.

But as rates have fallen across the country, it has sparked hope that the ailing sector could be given a much-needed boost - and mean thirsty Brits can once again attend their favourite watering holes.

A source told The Sun newspaper: “We will hopefully be sipping pints in the spring sunshine sooner rather than later.”

The nation was delivered a saving grace on Friday after it was revealed the UK's Covid-19 R number has dropped below 1 for the first time since July and now stands between 0.7 and 0.9.

An R number between 0.7 and 0.9 means that, on average, every 10 people infected will pass on the virus to between seven and nine other people, which suggests the pandemic is shrinking.

This is a drop from last week when the R number stood between 0.7 and 1, according to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).

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