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UK coronavirus live: weekly Covid deaths exceed 2,000; Hancock gives evidence in front of MPs UK coronavirus live: Hancock keen to end 'work when ill' culture and urges people to get tested
(32 minutes later)
Latest updates: first time Covid accounts for more than 20% of deaths in England and Wales since May; Christmas statement held up Latest updates: health secretary questioned by MPs; Covid now accounts for more than 20% of deaths in England and Wales; Christmas statement held up
Q: Are you confident that death certificates mentioning coronavirus are an accurate measure of the impact of the disease? I have heard anecdotal evidence that doctors are including coronavirus on death certificates on a precautionary basis.
Hancock says that is a fair question. But he says the chief medical officer would say the best measure of the impact of coronavirus on mortality would be the all-cause excess mortality figures.
Paul Bristow (Con) goes next.
Q: Has an economic impact been made of the coronavirus restrictions?
Hancock says that is a matter for the Treasury?
Q: So are you confident these measures are justified?
Hancock says he is.
He says ministers know that restrictions have an impact on the economy. But they have to strike a balance.
He says the tiering system has been devised to take into account the economic impact.
Q: Are deaths averted, and quality of life years saved, the only factors? Or do other factors count, like basic freedom?
Hancock says he agrees. He says decisions to impinge on people’s freedom weigh heavily on him, and on the PM.
He says he came into politics to improve people’s economic chances.
If R is above 1, cases will rise exponentially, he says. He says that will lead to tougher restrictions, which will have an even bigger economic impact.
Asked the revelation that his department spent almost £50,000 on takeaway food for staff at the Department of Health and Social Care, Hancock says he will “defend to the death” this spending. He says feeding staff who were working late on coronavirus was good value for money.
Q: Do you think Eat Out to Help Out was a mistake?
Hancock says government has to balance different priorities.
It is important to help hospitality, he says. And he says in the summer the number of cases was very low.
Hancock says more than 100 rapid lateral flow tests have been assessed by the government at its Porton Down laboratory.
But only a handful have been approved, he says.
Hancock says, having built a huge diagnostic capacity for coronavirus, he wants to ensure that it continues to get used after the pandemic is over.Hancock says, having built a huge diagnostic capacity for coronavirus, he wants to ensure that it continues to get used after the pandemic is over.
He says he would like ‘if in doubt, get a test’ to become a much more normal approach.He says he would like ‘if in doubt, get a test’ to become a much more normal approach.
He say it is is normal for Britons to go into work if they feel a bit ill. But he suggests that that is wrong, and that it should change. In other countries it is different, he suggests.He say it is is normal for Britons to go into work if they feel a bit ill. But he suggests that that is wrong, and that it should change. In other countries it is different, he suggests.
He says in future, if people have flu like symptoms, he would like people to be able to go and get a test so that they find out what’s wrong.He says in future, if people have flu like symptoms, he would like people to be able to go and get a test so that they find out what’s wrong.
UPDATE: Here are further quotes from the exchange.
Mark Logan (Con) goes next.Mark Logan (Con) goes next.
Q: What will Christmas look like this year?Q: What will Christmas look like this year?
Hancock says it won’t be normal. But he does not know exactly what it will look like. He is not involved in those discussions.Hancock says it won’t be normal. But he does not know exactly what it will look like. He is not involved in those discussions.
Q: Constituents feel that, because Eid and Diwali were disrupted, it would be unfair if Christmas gets special treatment?Q: Constituents feel that, because Eid and Diwali were disrupted, it would be unfair if Christmas gets special treatment?
Hancock says ministers have considered this point carefully. But they have taken the view that Christmas is the main national holiday.Hancock says ministers have considered this point carefully. But they have taken the view that Christmas is the main national holiday.
Q: So you think a two-week “circuit breaker” would have had to last longer?Q: So you think a two-week “circuit breaker” would have had to last longer?
Hancock says something would have had to come after it, because two weeks would not have been enough.Hancock says something would have had to come after it, because two weeks would not have been enough.
Hancock says he was “the architect” of the original tier system, and a big supporter of it.Hancock says he was “the architect” of the original tier system, and a big supporter of it.
But, as they could see case rates going up all around the country, they realised another approach was needed.But, as they could see case rates going up all around the country, they realised another approach was needed.
He says at that point a “circuit breaker” lockdown would have been a mistake, because it was not obvious what would happen next.He says at that point a “circuit breaker” lockdown would have been a mistake, because it was not obvious what would happen next.
He says the new tiered system is “better calibrated” than the original one.He says the new tiered system is “better calibrated” than the original one.
Q: What have your learnt as the pandemic has gone on?Q: What have your learnt as the pandemic has gone on?
Hancock says there are many things. As an example, he cites the way policy on schools has changed. At first the government did not know how risky it would be keeping them open. Now they are being kept open.Hancock says there are many things. As an example, he cites the way policy on schools has changed. At first the government did not know how risky it would be keeping them open. Now they are being kept open.
Carol Monaghan (SNP) is asking the questions now.Carol Monaghan (SNP) is asking the questions now.
Q: Should we have locked down earlier?Q: Should we have locked down earlier?
Hancock says there will be a debate about this.Hancock says there will be a debate about this.
He says the government followed the advice it was given. In defence of that advice, he says the UK put its lockdown in place earlier in the pandemic curve than other countries in Europe.He says the government followed the advice it was given. In defence of that advice, he says the UK put its lockdown in place earlier in the pandemic curve than other countries in Europe.
Q: Earlier you were saying you were not bound by scientific advice?Q: Earlier you were saying you were not bound by scientific advice?
Hancock says in this period (at the start of the pandemic) the government was following the scientific advice.Hancock says in this period (at the start of the pandemic) the government was following the scientific advice.
But he says at other times the government did not follow scientific advice. That is why he talked about being guided by the science, not following it. (See 11.16am.) He says the scientists were opposed to quarantine for arrivals from Wuhan. But he over-ruled them, he says.But he says at other times the government did not follow scientific advice. That is why he talked about being guided by the science, not following it. (See 11.16am.) He says the scientists were opposed to quarantine for arrivals from Wuhan. But he over-ruled them, he says.
Q: What have you learnt about how to improve incentives to self-isolate?Q: What have you learnt about how to improve incentives to self-isolate?
Hancock says incentives are important. The £500 payments are important, he says.Hancock says incentives are important. The £500 payments are important, he says.
He says he is sceptical about some numbers suggesting other countries have very high compliance rates. (Hunt quoted New York having rates above 90%.)He says he is sceptical about some numbers suggesting other countries have very high compliance rates. (Hunt quoted New York having rates above 90%.)
But Hancock says he is also sceptical of data showing very low compliance rates in the UK. One survey has produced a figure of just 20%. But that was a response to a question asked in a very general way, he suggests.But Hancock says he is also sceptical of data showing very low compliance rates in the UK. One survey has produced a figure of just 20%. But that was a response to a question asked in a very general way, he suggests.
(It is claimed that this survey meant very minor breaches of self-isolation meant people were categorised as not observing the rules.)(It is claimed that this survey meant very minor breaches of self-isolation meant people were categorised as not observing the rules.)
Back in the committee Jeremy Hunt asks about Sage saying test and trace has only had a marginal impact.Back in the committee Jeremy Hunt asks about Sage saying test and trace has only had a marginal impact.
Matt Hancock says, overall, test and trace has had an important impact. He suggests the Sage comment only referred to the impact of test and trace in a specific context.Matt Hancock says, overall, test and trace has had an important impact. He suggests the Sage comment only referred to the impact of test and trace in a specific context.
Turning away from the Matt Hancock hearing for a moment, this story is important to flag up. Leftwing members of Labour’s governing body have staged a mass walkout in protest of the actions of the Labour leadership, my colleague Jessica Elgot reports.Turning away from the Matt Hancock hearing for a moment, this story is important to flag up. Leftwing members of Labour’s governing body have staged a mass walkout in protest of the actions of the Labour leadership, my colleague Jessica Elgot reports.
Asked about following the science, Hancock says he has always tried to say he was guided by the science. He says he does not like the term “following the science”, because it implies ministers did not have discretion.Asked about following the science, Hancock says he has always tried to say he was guided by the science. He says he does not like the term “following the science”, because it implies ministers did not have discretion.
Q: Did you get the best scientific advice?Q: Did you get the best scientific advice?
Hancock says he thought he got the best scientific advice his advisers could give him.Hancock says he thought he got the best scientific advice his advisers could give him.
But he says there are lessons to be learnt.But he says there are lessons to be learnt.
He mentions Operation Cygnus, an exercise that prepared the government for a flu pandemic. He says it was valuable; as a result, the Coronavirus Act was available in draft. He mentions Operation Cygnus, an exercise that prepared the government for a flu pandemic. He says it was valuable; as a result, the Coronavirus Act was available in draft. He goes on:
But there were more lessons to learn, he says.
Jeremy Hunt, chair of the health committee, starts the questioning.Jeremy Hunt, chair of the health committee, starts the questioning.
Q: If all vulnerable people are vaccinated by Easter, what will the social distancing rules be from then?Q: If all vulnerable people are vaccinated by Easter, what will the social distancing rules be from then?
Hancock says it will depend on the data.Hancock says it will depend on the data.
Vaccine trials can successfully test for whether they protect an individual.Vaccine trials can successfully test for whether they protect an individual.
In the AstraZeneca trial, there is also some evidence that it is having an impact on transmission too, he says.In the AstraZeneca trial, there is also some evidence that it is having an impact on transmission too, he says.
But he says you cannot calibrate the impact mathematically until a large number of people have been vaccinate.But he says you cannot calibrate the impact mathematically until a large number of people have been vaccinate.
Q: Will we be back to normal after Easter?Q: Will we be back to normal after Easter?
Hancock says:Hancock says: