Matt Hancock warns UK 'a long, long way' from end of lockdown due to high Covid cases and deaths from mutant strains

MATT Hancock has warned we still have a "long, long way to go" before lockdown ends.

The Health Secretary this morning said the NHS remains under "enormous" pressure as cases continue to soar and fears mount over newly-emerging mutant Covid strains.

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He today told Sophy Ridge on Sunday cases are nowhere near low enough to see an end to the Draconian lockdown measures.

Speaking to Stephen Dixon – who is filling in for veteran political presenter Sophy Ridge after she tested positive for the virus – the health sec said: "There is early evidence that the lockdown is starting to bring cases down.

"But we're a long, long, long way from being low enough because the case rate was incredibly high."

He added: "You can see the pressure on the NHS, you can see it every day.

"The NHS are doing an amazing job in incredibly difficult circumstances and so we, I am confident in the measures that we've got in place now.

"What really matters is that everybody follows them and the reason for that is not just the death toll each day which is far too high but also because the pressure on the NHS – including from people who thankfully come out of hospital alive – the pressure on the NHS is enormous and that has knock-on consequences for people who suffer from all other illnesses.

"So it is very, very important that we continue to follow the rules, that's at the core of it even whilst we do everything we can to support the NHS through this."

Top scientists and Government Ministers are allegedly keen to make this our last lockdown and will not risk easing restrictions if lifitng them too early could see us plunged into a fourth shutdown, The Times reports.

Cases and deaths yesterday continued to soar as a mutant strain ravages the country.

Data from Saturday, January 23 saw deaths rise by 1,348 as fatalities topped 1,000 for the fifth day running. 

Infections increased by 33,552, bringing the total to 3,617,459.

The grim increase in fatalities brought the total number of Covid deaths since the beginning of the pandemic to 97,329.

It was higher than last Saturday’s figure of 1,295, and also marks an increase on the 1,035 fatalities reported a fortnight ago.

Data from today is not yet available.

It comes as Tory MPs are reportedly heaping pressure on Boris Johnson to lay out plans now for an easing of the national lockdown from March 8.

Members of the influential Covid Recovery Group want the PM to give people and businesses hope by committing early to a roll back of restrictions as soon as he can.

They have earmarked mid-March as the moment when the protective effect of mass vaccinations is projected to kick in.

Scientists have concluded people develop a high level of immunity from the virus around three weeks after receiving their first jab.

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