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‘It’s very selfish’ - Health secretary blasts those ignoring social distancing advice

PUBLISHED: 11:50 23 March 2020 | UPDATED: 15:42 23 March 2020

Health Secretary Matt Hancock arriving in Downing Street as prime minister Boris Johnson has said the Government is ready to impose tougher restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus if people do not follow the guidance on social distancing. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Health Secretary Matt Hancock arriving in Downing Street as prime minister Boris Johnson has said the Government is ready to impose tougher restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus if people do not follow the guidance on social distancing. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

The country’s health minister has slammed as “selfish” those who ignore social distancing advice.

Matt Hancock, the secretary of state for health and social care, said he did not know why people were ignoring the advice to stay two metres away from other people.

The health secretary, who represents West Suffolk, said: “It’s very selfish. The NHS is doing everything it can and preparing for the spread of this virus.

“If people go within two metres of others who they don’t live with then they’re helping to spread the virus - and the consequences of that costs lives and it means that, for everyone, this will go on for longer.”

MORE: Norfolk coronavirus cases rise to 34

Mr Hancock said ministers were prepared to take stricter measures to clamp down on the spread of the virus if necessary.

Ahead of the debate and cabinet meeting on Monday, Mr Hancock was asked if cabinet would consider a firmer lockdown.

On Saturday, a new order was signed allowing police to shut bars, restaurants and pubs if they were still open.

Emergency legislation that would grant powers aimed at tackling the pandemic will be debated by MPs later.

Mr Hancock said: “This isn’t the sort of thing I ever wanted to do but it is the sort of thing as a nation we have to be prepared to see to stop this virus. These are unpleasant and very difficult times.

“Nothing is off the table. Of course we are looking at what other European countries are doing.”

And he said he hoped that the testing of medical staff would take place “as soon as possible” so that doctors, nurses and other NHS workers who may not have the virus but were self-isolating could get back to work.

The Government has confirmed that all major hospitals have received deliveries of personal protective equipment needed by frontline staff and that a hotline has been set up for NHS workers to ring if there are shortages in their area.

MORE: Trust could shut nature reserves amid coronavirus social distancing advice

The calls came as an 18-year-old was thought to have become the youngest victim of the virus in Britain as the number of deaths in the UK rose to 281.

Meanwhile, letters are going out to 1.5 million people with underlying health conditions who are considered to be the most vulnerable to the coronavirus telling them to stay at home for the next 12 weeks.

The Government said it would ensure those without families and friends to support them would continue to receive food and medicines, with the military helping to organise deliveries.


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