07/01/2021 16:10 GMT | Updated 07/01/2021 16:34 GMT

Matt Hancock Says This Will Be The Last Covid Lockdown

Health secretary suggests vaccines mean ministers will not re-introduce national restrictions.

Heath secretary Matt Hancock arriving in Downing Street

Health secretary Matt Hancock has said he believes this is the last national lockdown now there are vaccines against Covid

Speaking to MPs on the Commons health committee, the minister said the number of deaths due to the virus would begin to fall now that vulnerable people were being vaccinated. 

Conservative MP Dean Russell asked the minister directly about future lockdowns. 

He said: “Just looking ahead, to give a bit of relief both in terms of mental health and the light at the end of the tunnel, do you foresee this being the last of the lockdowns now that the vaccinations are being rolled out?” 

Hancock began nodding, and replied: “I do. Yes.” 

The prediction appears to contrast the view of chief medical officer Chris Whitty, who said earlier this week that some restrictions may be needed next winter.

Hancock also said the UK will “probably need to revaccinate” people to ensure continuing protection and that could happen as often as every six months. 

He said: “I anticipate we will probably need to revaccinate because we don’t know the longevity of the protection from these vaccines.

“We don’t know how frequently it will be, but it might need to be every six months, it might need to be every year.”

Some 1.3m people have been dosed so far and Boris Johnson has said that the plan is to vaccinate all the over-70s, the most clinically vulnerable, and front-line health and care workers by mid-February. 

TOBY MELVILLE via Getty Images
Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty (L) and Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance arrive to attend a virtual press conference inside 10 Downing Street

Hancock said that while he expected the vaccination programme would mean deaths fall sharply, reducing the level of hospitalisations may take longer. 

He said: “Hospitalisation levels I would also expect to fall, but ironically not as quickly as deaths in the first instance.

“The reason is that people that are slightly younger spend longer in hospital, often because they survive when somebody who is very old and frail might not survive for as long.”

The health secretary was also asked about leaked NHS documents which suggested that hospitals in London will soon be overwhelmed, even in the “best” case scenario. 

He said it is “impossible” to put a percentage on the absolute risk of the NHS being overwhelmed in the next two weeks.

“It’s impossible to put a number on it, and I don’t mean that just as a cop-out,” he told MPs. 

He said that as pressure on the NHS grows “it is more stretched in delivering the services that people need” and pointed to the cancelling of routine elective procedures in the second peak.

Asked if he has faith that the health service in London will be able to cope, he said: “Well, yes, I’m sure that the NHS is going to do everything that it possibly can to ensure that everybody gets the care that they need.”

Hancock said critical care capacity had been extended over the summer in the capital and reiterated that the Nightingale is on stand-by.

He said: “Of course the Nightingale is the physical capacity, we also need the people and, hence, bringing people back into the NHS.

“And also, ultimately, when hospitals are busy and full then clinicians become more stretched, and that’s why we should be all so grateful for the service that they’re giving.”