Matt Hancock on exiting lockdown, the new timetable and what 2022 looks like

Virgin Radio

23 Feb 2021, 11:26

The Health Secretary joined the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Sky earlier to discuss the return of mass gatherings, the year ahead and advice to “ignore Piers Morgan.”

Speaking about the new timetable plan and whether it's doable, he said: “It’s definitely achievable and if we all stick at it, as we have been doing during this lockdown... But we've also said that in between each step we'll look at the data and we'll check that everything's still going in the right direction.

"There's some really good news – the news of how effective the vaccine is, is incredibly powerful. There have been over three-quarters of reduction in hospitalisations and deaths.

"The thing I find most exciting about all of this is that you can see it in the real world. The number of people dying is falling at a faster pace than it was even two weeks ago.”  

So what does the future hold for us all? He explained: “I think this will end up like a disease like flu that we manage. We vaccinate against the flu each year and we'll end up vaccinating against COVID as well.

"It won't disappear but for most people, it will just be something that happens occasionally but as everybody gets their vaccine and we have to live with it in the same way that there are lots of diseases that we have to live with.

"I'd love to be able to say we'd eradicate it but it's just not possible. Even countries that have thrown everything at it and have stopped almost all international travel still have flare-ups and that isn't a route that is open to us.”

Discussing the lockdown exit plan, he said: “I do think the number one thing is that we've now got a route out of this. We've got a route out because this vaccine programme is going so well and now a third of people have been vaccinated.

"There's still obviously a lot more to go. The other thing is – and this is the point I really want to get over –  it on all of us, it's still on all of us. Just because we've got a map out doesn't mean that the job is done or that it's down to the government particularly.

"Of course, we'll try our best to do our bit. But actually, everybody continuing with sticking to the rules matters because that is what is going to help us get out on the timetable that's been set out…

"Our individual actions taken all together across the whole country will determine whether we can go at this pace because if everybody follows the rules, as they are very, very largely doing now, then that will make this possible.

"One of the things we've learnt over the last year is that this is a massive collective effort. There's no way of getting away from that.”

On the return of mass gatherings, he said: “We try to do it as much as possible in consultation with people. For the big events, talking to the sports bodies and the conference organisers about how we can make it work in a way that's safe and we've done that.

"We were hoping to get some going in the autumn but unfortunately, with this new variant, the virus got going faster than we expected. We do want to get things going again both carefully and safely.

"The other thing is that we've got a much bigger testing system now. For instance, you go for a test before you travel internationally, but that's also a reasonable thing to ask people to do before going to a large event. We've got more tools in our locker and we've got to all work together to try to make this work as safely as possible.”

So what has he learnt over the past year? He said: “I've learnt about the need for resilience, I've learnt to ignore what Piers Morgan says... Because what matters is the substance.”