Matt Hancock says Covid is 'back under control' but urges public to get tested

30 November 2020, 17:20 | Updated: 30 November 2020, 18:02

By Megan White

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said Covid is 'back under control' as the number of cases fell by almost a third last week.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, Mr Hancock said "hope is on the horizon" as lockdown restrictions across the UK continued to drive down the R rate.

But he urged the public to continue to get tested if they are offered one, adding: "If you have Covid without symptoms and still infect others that is, of course, a silent danger.

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"You wouldn't know that you're risking lives around you.

"So to everybody: if you are offered a test please take it, you might just save a life."

Discussing the drop in cases, Mr Hancock said: "This is clearly good news. It shows that the national restrictions have been successful.

"And what this means in practice is that through everyone's actions in respecting the national lockdown, and through everything that people have sacrificed, we've reduced pressures on the NHS, we've brought down the number of coronavirus cases, we've got this virus back under control."

The Health Secretary declared that "the light of dawn is on the horizon," branding this "the moment to stand firm until the morning".

But Mr Hancock stressed the need for tiered restrictions to return to England, saying that "while we can let up a little, we can't afford to let up a lot".

He told a Downing Street press conference that about one in three people have no symptoms at all but can still infect others, adding: "That is why even as we ease these national restrictions we've got to keep some restrictions in place.

"So while we can let up a little, we can't afford to let up a lot.

"The success of our collective efforts means that from Wednesday everyone in England, even those in Tier 3, can have some greater freedoms but we don't have much headroom."

He also pointed to the Government's impact assessment in needing the new tiered approach.

"It clearly demonstrates this action is necessary to avoid a much worse outcome - and we must be vigilant," he said.

NHS England national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said it was "crucial" to have Covid-19 infection rates under control going into the new year.

"Unlike the spring, when we were heading out of winter into the summer, we are now heading into the winter," he told a Downing Street press conference.

"The NHS is always at its busiest in January, February and into March. We see more infections, chest infections from other viruses and bugs, we see more slips, trips and falls.

"So, the pressure on the NHS builds. It's crucial going into that period that we have this under control."

The Health Secretary said the three tier system is the "best way" to avoid a third national lockdown.

He said: "I would urge all MPs right across the house to vote for the tiered system.

"The tiered system has a lower set of restrictions than the national lockdown in all three tiers.

"But it's also more targeted, so that the areas where the prevalence is lower, and the pressure on the NHS is lower, have fewer restrictions.

"Which means that people can do more in terms of going about their normal lives, and obviously has a less detrimental impact on the economy.

"Unfortunately though, we do have to have the higher tier restrictions, and in particular tier three restrictions, in place, so that we can have confidence that we can keep getting this virus down, and then keep it under control right across the country.

"And that way, it is the best way to avoid a third lockdown. And it is the most proportionate way to take the action that we need to keep people safe, and to stop the NHS being overwhelmed."