Saturday, 26 Sep 2020

Matt Hancock blames surge in coronavirus cases on 'affluent young people'

Matt Hancock has blamed ‘affluent young people’ for a ‘concerning’ surge in coronavirus cases.

The health secretary was speaking after the UK recorded nearly 3,000 new coronavirus infections on Sunday – the biggest jump since mid-May, when the country was still in strict lockdown.

He urged young people under 25, particularly those aged 17 to 21, to use social distancing because ‘nobody wants to see a second wave here’.

After previous rises were concentrated in poorer areas, Mr Hancock said new infections had shifted demographics to ‘affluent young people’.

He told LBC: ‘Over the summer we had particular problems in some of the areas that are most deprived.

‘Actually, the recent increase we have seen in the last few days is more broadly spread and not concentrated in poorer areas.

‘It’s actually among more affluent younger people where we have seen the rise.

‘That is where people really need to hear this message, and abide by it, which is that everybody has a responsibility for social distancing to keep themselves safe and to keep others safe.’

Mr Hancock told people ‘don’t kill your gran’ as he warned young people they could pass on the virus even if they don’t feel sick.

He told BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat: ‘The message to everybody of any age, the risk of spreading it to others – and, especially others who are older, and therefore highly vulnerable to the disease – that risk is real.

‘Sticking to the social distancing rules is incredibly important. The question is, how much are you willing to risk the lives of yourself and others by breaking the social distancing rules?

‘Don’t kill your gran by catching coronavirus and then passing it on. And you can pass it on before you have had any symptoms at all.’

Asked whether he had ‘lost control’ of the pandemic, Mr Hancock replied: ‘No, but the whole country needs to following social distancing because we can only do this as a whole society.

‘Everybody has a role to play in following the social distancing otherwise it will spread.’

The health secretary was also criticised by people who have had to travel long distances to get a coronavirus test.

One caller from Nottingham said that when he tried to get a test he was instructed to travel to a Dundee testing centre.

Mr Hancock said no one would be instructed to drive further than 75 miles for a test.

He said: ‘Over the summer we have seen demand for tests go up and so if your local centre is full then people were asked to go a long way.

‘The vast majority of people get access to a test at their local testing centre and it is turned around very rapidly.

‘But there have been problems and we are increasing capacity.’

The daily increase in coronavirus cases began topping 1,000 during August and has since been steadily increasing, with 1,940 cases on Friday, 1,735 on Thursday and 1,508 on Wednesday. Altogether, the UK has seen 347,152 people test positive for the virus.

Despite the surge in cases, hospital admissions remain low, with only two deaths recorded in the previous 24 hours.

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