Health secretary announces childcare exemption from local lockdowns in England; Whitty calls for ‘break in unnecessary links between households’
In the Commons Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee, says decisions about how to balance the need to protect lives against other considerations, like the economy, are political judgments. Does Hancock agree that political judgments will be improved if they are subject to scrutiny?
Hancock says he does agree with this. But he says sometimes restrictions have had to be announced when parliament was not sitting.
In response to a question about a school in Leeds saying any pupil who falls ill must go home and get tested for coronavirus, Hancock says that is not correct. Pupils should only get tests if they have coronavirus symptoms; if they have another illness, they don’t, he says.
In the Commons another Conservative MP expressed concern about further possible coronavirus restrictions being introduced. Simon Clarke urged Matt Hancock to consider the importance of “proportionality”. He said people needed some social contact.
Boris Johnson has spoken to Mark Drakeford, the first minister of Wales. After the call a spokesperson for Drakeford said
The first minister updated the prime minister about the measures the Welsh government is taking in Wales to control an increase in cases of coronavirus and protect people’s health in parts of south Wales.
They agreed on the need to work on a four-nation basis to discuss UK-wide measures where these were necessary.
In the Commons Chris Grayling, the Tory former transport secretary, praises Hancock for the measures announced today. But he says there is considerable regional variation in the spread of coronavirus. In the light of that, Grayling says, he does not believes there is a case for tightening national restrictions.
Scottish ministers are considering far-reaching restrictions to combat the surge in Covid cases including local lockdowns linked to school holidays next month, travel restrictions, closing playparks and shutting down hairdressers.
The measures were revealed in a leaked document marked “official sensitive”, which also reveals the Scottish government could issue a “general message” that people should again stay at home accept for essential shopping and exercise and also avoid public transport.
Written by Scottish government officials last Saturday, it also suggests a “rolling lockdown” for different parts of Scotland linked to October’s half term holidays, so that once schools are closed, the entire area goes into a lockdown.
Schools in a large majority of Scotland’s local authorities close for two weeks on 9 October, while a handful, including Edinburgh, close on 16 October.
Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, confirmed she knew about the document, a computer screen image circulated on Twitter, and did not deny it was authentic. She said her government was considering a range of measures, some of which would go live this week and others at a later date.
“Yes, we are looking at a wide range of options and any government that isn’t doing that right now wouldn’t be doing its job properly,” she said during her daily coronavirus briefing.
She is due to hold emergency talks with Boris Johnson this afternoon before all four UK governments announce a new batch of tougher national restrictions on Tuesday. The details in that document are likely to be very similar to the restrictions being considered across the UK.
What I would say is that any responsible government right now will be looking at a whole range of different options. I know the Scottish government is and I’ve indicated today what the nature of some of those would be.
But we haven’t reached final decisions yet so anybody that’s looking at any documents and drawing a conclusion these are definitely going to happen is wrong, because we haven’t made these decisions.
He thanks him for his constructive approach. They both agree that the strategy of suppressing the virus, while protecting the economy, is the right one.
Hancock says most people have followed the rules. But they have to be made mandatory because some people are not following them.
He claims the tone of Hancock’s remarks yesterday (in TV interviews) implied he was blaming the public.
There have been reports of asymptomatic people being offered tests at test centres. Was that policy?
Hancock says an exemption from local lockdown measures is going to be introduced for childcare arrangements. It will cover formal and informal arrangements, for children under 14 and for vulnerable children.
I’ve heard the concerns about the impact of local action on childcare arrangements. For many, informal childcare arrangements are a lifeline, without which they couldn’t do their jobs.
So, today I’m able to announce a new exemption for looking after children under the age of 14 or vulnerable adults where that is necessary for caring purposes.
This covers both formal and informal arrangements. It does not allow for play-dates or parties, but it does mean that a consistent childcare relationship that is vital for somebody to get to work is allowed.
I hope this change will provide clarity and comfort to many people who are living with these local restrictions.
Hancock says, from next Monday, new payments worth £500 will be offered to those on low incomes who have to self-isolate.
He says this scheme will apply to England, but the devolved administrations will get Barnett funding to pay for their own versions.
He says the PM spoke to first ministers today. He says the four nations of the UK are seeking to coordinate what they do.
If it continues to spread at the rate it is doing, there could be 50,000 new cases by October, he says.
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News – UK coronavirus live news: Hancock makes Covid statement to MPs as Whitty calls for reduced social contact