Matt Hancock says UK is 'winning battle against coronavirus' but pleads with public to get tested if suffering symptoms

Sophia Sleigh
PA

The Health Secretary has said “we are winning the battle against coronavirus” while pleading with the public to come forward if they experience symptoms.

The Government also announced that 111 more people have died after testing positive for Covid-19 which would make it the lowest daily toll since lockdown was imposed on March 23.

Yesterday's cumulative total announced by the Department of Health was 38,489, which is 556 below today's cumulative total of 39,045. But Department for Health said this was because of historic deaths being incorporated into the data retrospectively.

Matt Hancock opened Monday's press conference in Downing Street by urging people to come forward to get tested. He also warned that lockdown measures could be reimposed nationally if necessary.

It comes after concerns have been raised that people will be reluctant to self-isolate as part of the NHS Test and Trace system following several weeks of lockdown.

He said: “If there is one message that we have for today it is that it is incredibly important for anybody who has symptoms of coronavirus, a cough or a fever or a change in your sense of taste or smell that you get a test.”

Health experts today warned that lockdown measures were being lifted too quickly but Mr Hancock said the data showed that the country was "winning the battle" against coronavirus.

He added: "Today we are therefore able to make some cautious changes to the lockdown rules, carefully and safely."

He said "the level of incidence of disease has come down" but warned that "the disease is not done yet"

He added: "We must all remember that in the war against this virus we are all on the same side. We have come so far together, we can take these steps together.

"But do not step too far, the disease is not done yet. We mustn't throw away the progress that has been made."

The Secretary of State said the new NHS Test and Trace system had been “successful” but was unable to provide any data other than it had a capacity for 206,444 tests.



He added: "It's successful, I'm very glad to report that those who are asked to isolate by the contact tracers are expressing the willingness to do so and we track that very carefully."

He also revealed that they had more contact tracers than they needed but said it was a “good thing” and added: "I think to err on the side of having too many contact tracers is the right side to err on. I'd rather have too many people trained and ready to go."​

Professor John Newton said it was working well, telling the Downing Street press conference: "We do have a lot of capacity."

It comes as some pupils returned to school today as major changes are made to coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

People in England are now allowed to meet up with up to six people from separate households outdoors, while more than two million clinically vulnerable people who have been shielding from the virus for the past 10 weeks will also be allowed to go outside.

Mr Hancock said the changes to guidance for shielded people were made because the incidence of coronavirus is now "down to the levels that it was before" the policy was introduced.

During the questioning by journalists, Mr Hancock said lockdown measures could be reimposed nationally if necessary and added: "We have always said that we are prepared to reintroduce measures - whether that is nationally or in response to a localised outbreak - if that is necessary."

He also said said the Joint Biosecurity Centre - the organisation tasked with assessing the Covid-19 alert level - is not yet up and running but that it was being "formulated at the moment".

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