Matt Hancock rejects Covid calls to ease lockdown in areas with low rates

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The Health Secretary has rejected calls for lockdown to be eased more quickly in areas with fewer Covid cases.

New data has emerged today showing that millions of people are living in areas with almost no cases at all.

The Daily Telegraph reports that 7.2 million people are living in areas where the virus is all but not present.

Large parts of Cornwall, Devon and Wiltshire come into this category, although urban areas such as the London neighbourhoods Notting Hill West, Pimlico, Balham and Hampstead Town are also in the same position.

Speaking today in the Commons, Ben Bradshaw, MP for Exeter in Devon where rates are 49 per 100,000, asked: “What will be the justification for keeping my constituents locked down and local businesses closed through Easter and beyond because rates somewhere else happened to be higher?”

Hancock replied: “We obviously had a tiered system over the autumn — one of the challenges we found was people travelling from a part of the country where rates are higher to those where they are lower.”

The Government may take “a localised approach to outbreaks”, but he insisted: “We are going to move down the road map, as a nation, across England.”

The Times reports that areas such as Peterborough, Leicester and Sandwell in the West Midlands have rates of more than 200 per 100,000 people.

However, rates have fallen under 50 per 100,000 in places such as Islington in north London and the Isle of Wight in Hampshire.

In very local areas, Public Health England officials do not publish statistics where there are fewer than three cases in order “to protect individuals’ identities”.

The most recent data shows that 971 of 6,791 these so-called Middle-layer Super Output Areas fall into that category.

A total of 17,985,951 Covid-19 vaccinations took place in England between December 8 and March 1, according to provisional NHS England data, including first and second doses, which is a rise of 173,212 on the previous day’s figures.

Of this number, 17,373,384 were the first dose of a vaccine, a rise of 160,580 on the previous day, while 612,567 were a second dose, an increase of 12,632.

Asked by Conservative Christchurch MP Sir Christopher Chope how many people have been admitted to hospital with Covid three weeks after having a vaccine, Mr Hancock said “I don’t have those figures to hand specifically”.



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