Towns in England will face 'local lockdowns' to tackle coronavirus

27 May 2020, 06:16

By Asher McShane

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed there will be local lockdowns to tackle regional outbreaks of coronavirus in England.

Mr Hancock, speaking at yesterday's daily update on the coronavirus response, the restrictions will be brought in when there are flare-ups in specific areas.

It'll be part of the NHS test, track and trace system, he said.

He said: "Yes, we will have local lockdowns in future where there are flare-ups and we have a system we are putting in place with a combination of Public Health England and the new joint bio-security centre, along with the local directors of public health who play an absolutely crucial role in the decision-making in the system to make sure if there is a local flare-up there is a local lockdown.

"And so local lockdowns will be part of the future system that we put in place as part of the NHS test-and-trace system."

Professor John Newton, leader of the government's Covid-19 testing programme, said:c"It is a whole-country effort. It has a national component, but it has a very important local component as well, which needs to reflect... the special characteristics of different parts of the country."

MPs are going to have local lockdowns if there are covid-19 flare-ups in towns in England
MPs are going to have local lockdowns if there are covid-19 flare-ups in towns in England. Picture: PA

The latest figures on confirmed cases show they are still relatively high in the North East, with 495 confirmed cases per 100,000 population in Sunderland.

In parts of South West England, the figures is as low as 95 per 100,000 (West Devon).

Matt Hancock announced plans for 'local lockdowns'
Matt Hancock announced plans for 'local lockdowns'. Picture: PA

Barrow-in-Furness, with 831 confirmed cases per 100,000, has the highest figure both for England and the whole of the UK.

Mr Hancock defended asking the public to self-isolate in the test and trace programme despite the actions of Boris Johnson's top aide Dominic Cummings, who is facing calls to quit over travelling to Durham during lockdown.

Mr Hancock told the Downing Street briefing: "They're not doing it for me, people are doing this for their loved ones.

"If you're phoned up and asked to self-isolate even though you're perfectly healthy because you've been in close contact with somebody who's tested positive, then it's your civic duty to then self-isolate, for yourself, for your community, for your family, and we all need to come together to do this."

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At the Downing Street press conference, Matt Hancock said the lockdown guidelines were drafted with "exceptional circumstances" in mind - allowing for the defence that Dominic Cummings had used.

"It is reasonable to conclude that the description of events that Mr Cummings put out yesterday was within the guidelines," Mr Hancock said.

But he added that, "I understand that reasonable people will disagree with that and of course I understand some of the anger that boiled up over the weekend".

He also said he understood the "anger that some people feel" over Dominic Cummings actions.

"I regret the anger that some people feel and Mr Cummings himself said that - with hindsight - he should have got all the facts out earlier," Mr Hancock said.

But he said his focus was on the next steps in tackling the crisis.