UK at coronavirus 'tipping point' says Matt Hancock

20 September 2020, 14:40 | Updated: 21 September 2020, 05:52

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has not rules out further measures
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has not rules out further measures. Picture: PA Images

By Maddie Goodfellow

Matt Hancock has refused to rule out 'more restrictive' Covid-19 measures, warning that the UK "faces a tipping point".

The Health Secretary warned that the Government will impose fresh national coronavirus restrictions if the public fails to follow the existing rules.

Mr Hancock also said he was "very worried" about the second wave of the virus now emerging in the UK.

"The nation faces a tipping point," he told Sky News's Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme.

"We have a choice. Either everybody follows the rules - the rule of six and the need to self-isolate if you have a positive test or if you are contacted by NHS Test and Trace - or we will have to take more measures.

"I don't want to see more measures, more restrictive measures, but if people don't follow the rules that is how the virus spreads."

His comments came as the Government announced people in England will face fines of up to £10,000 if they refuse an order to self-isolate.

Mr Hancock said: "We will support people who do the right thing and we will come down hard on people who do the wrong thing."

The Health Secretary also said there was a danger the infection rate could "shoot through the roof" if people did not follow the the Government's rules.

"We have seen in the data that some people who need to self-isolate are not doing so," the Health Secretary said.

"If you have been asked to self-isolate then you either definitely have the coronavirus or you are highly likely to have coronavirus, and so it is mission critical that you isolate.

"I am very worried about this second wave. We have seen in other countries around Europe how it can absolutely shoot through the roof."

It comes as Boris Johnson announced that people who fail to self-isolate will be required will receive fines of up to £10,000 under emergency plans drawn up to fight the surge in coronavirus cases.

Those on low incomes and benefits will also be eligible for “stay at home” incentive payments of £500 to cover lost earnings for having to quarantine. 

The fines, set to come into force under law in England from 28 September, will start at  £1,000, rising to £10,000 for repeat offenders. 

Ministers are in discussion with the devolved administrations for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland about extending the significant powers UK-wide.

Announcing the sweeping new “carrot and stick” package, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “The best way we can fight this virus is by everyone following the rules and self-isolating if they’re at risk of passing on coronavirus.

“And so nobody underestimates just how important this is, new regulations will mean you are legally obliged to do so if you have the virus or have been asked to do so by NHS Test and Trace.

“People who choose to ignore the rules will face significant fines. We need to do all we can to control the spread of this virus, to prevent the most vulnerable people from becoming infected, and to protect the NHS and save lives.”

Police will check compliance in Covid-19 hotspots and among groups considered to be “high-risk” as well as following up reports from neighbours with suspicions.

Those contacted by NHS Test and Trace and told to self-isolate for being contacts of someone infected with Covid-19 also face the fines for falling foul of the rules. 

Mr Johnson warned on Friday the UK is “now seeing a second wave” of Covid-19, adding it was “inevitable” that it would arrive. 

As infections spiral, he is said to be considering announcing fresh national curbs as early as next week.

Ministers are still looking at further restrictions, including a temporary two or three-week “circuit break” national shutdown in an attempt to break the chain of transmission.

The move could see pubs and restaurants ordered to close or face a 10pm curfew, while socialising between households could be banned.