Matt Hancock squirms as BBC host dismantles plans to lift tier system across England

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Matt Hancock was asked to clarify how the Government is planning to ease restrictive measures in areas with current high coronavirus rates. Westminster imposed a new tier system across England two weeks ago, with several northern regions forced to partially shut down businesses again because of a surge of COVID-19 cases. BBC Today presenter Justin Webb challenged the Health Secretary to outline the strategy the Government will be following to lift restrictions.

Mr Webb said: “Could we talk a bit about Tier 3 and the argument that there has been about how people judge when it is possible for an area to come out of Tier 3.

“What are the criteria going to be?”

Mr Hancock said close monitoring of the infection rate will play a key role in managing the tier system, saying: “The first thing that’s most important is that the case rate has to be coming down.

“In particular, we look at the number of cases amongst the over 60s because that’s the number that is likely to transform in hospital admissions and, sadly, into deaths.”

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The BBC host however appeared dissatisfied with the answer, as he once again asked: “How is one to judge then whether a Tier 3 area is coming close to getting out of it? Or indeed a Tier 2 area? Are you using national or local data?

“And when it comes to hospitalisation, Carl Heneghan of Oxford’s Centre for Evidence-based Medicine has been saying the problem is there is a seasonal effect, a seasonal pressure on hospitals.

“It is important to know the proportion of people who are in hospital, particularly in intensive care who are actually suffering from Covid. Is that going to be readily available and published in all the affected areas?”

Mr Hancock said the Government is currently basing its decision on local data to ensure the areas under restrictions remain “as small as it’s feasibly possible to get the case rate under control.”

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He said: “Yes, that data is published by the NHS. Unfortunately, it’s showing that hospitalisations are still going up and that they are doubling every fortnight.

“It shows the number of people in hospital with Covid and we know the overall size of the capacity in the hospital.

“You can see how many of those are taken up by people with Covid.

“What is critical, in terms of going into Tier 3, is I worry when the rate is shooting up.”

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