Matt Hancock: 'November lockdown didn't work,' can't say when Tier 4 will end

20 December 2020, 11:40 | Updated: 20 December 2020, 12:12

By Joe Cook

Matt Hancock has told LBC’s Swarbrick on Sunday the “November lockdown did not work” against the new Covid strain and implied Tier 4 measures may be here for a long time.

The health secretary repeatedly refused to give an end date for the Tier 4 measures that are currently in place across London and much of the South East of England.

Pressed by Tom Swarbrick on how long the measures will be here for, Mr Hancock told LBC: “The legal review is every two weeks, but I think we do need to be absolutely straightforward that the actions needed to control this new variant are really serious.

Read more: Sir Keir Starmer: Boris Johnson 'chose to ignore' Covid-19 alarm bells

“We know that the November lockdown did not work against this new variant, because the cases carried on rising in Kent.”

The new variant, which is now dominant in London, is up to 70 percent more transmissible than the previous strain.

Read more: Crowds flee London on eve of capital entering Tier 4 restrictions

On Saturday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said early analysis showed the new strain could increase the reproductive rate by 0.4 or more, making it very difficult to reduce cases.

Although the new variant is spreading faster, and therefore harder to control, there is currently no suggestion that it is more deadly or causes more severe symptoms.

Read more: Christmas in chaos for millions after Tier 4 lockdown

Mr Hancock told Swarbrick on Sunday: “We are still learning about the new variant, as has been demonstrated over the last few days.

“What we do know is that right now everybody can make a difference to the spread of this virus by essentially keeping away from close contact with other people."

Read more: Wales to go into new lockdown with mixing allowed only on Christmas day

However, he added that the vaccine is still expected to work on the new strain, offering some light at the end of the tunnel.

The health secretary said he hoped a significant amount of the vaccine would be rolled out by the end of April, “but that depends on the sign off by the MHRA of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and the NHS ability to deploy it”.

“We have got to vaccinate as quickly as we feasibly can, but we have got to do that anyway because each vaccine starts to save lives as soon as you get to a week past that second dose.

“I am really glad that the vaccine rollout is accelerating, the numbers are going up all the time.”

Read more: Scotland travel ban with rest of UK as strict Christmas Covid rules announced

Read more: Tier 4: Extra police deployed to crack down on non-essential travel

“The NHS has confirmed that we will be vaccinating through Christmas - Christmas Day,” he revealed.

However, Mr Hancock said the government does not know how long it will take until we get to a tipping point, as the MHRA has yet to sign off on the Oxford vaccine, and still “don’t know the impact of the vaccine on lowering the transmission of the disease”.