The Health Secretary returned from holiday to say he is ‘worried’ about a second wave of Covid-19 and confirmed the Chief Medical Officer will announce new measures later today
Get our daily coronavirus email newsletter with all the news you need to know direct to your inbox
A second wave of coronavirus is “starting to roll across Europe”, the UK Health Secretary declared today.
Matt Hancock said he was “worried” about a second wave and cases are going up in many European countries.
They are expected to include telling people to isolate for 10 days after they show symptoms, rather than the current seven days.
Mr Hancock – who has just returned from a canoeing holiday in Herefordshire – told Sky News: “I am worried about a second wave.
“I think you can see a second wave starting to roll across Europe and we’ve got to do everything we can to prevent it from reaching these shores and to tackle it.
“But so too are the measures we’re taking, for instance to ensure that we don’t directly bring cases back to this country where there’s a big spike in cases.
“So absolutely on a second wave it is something I worry about and I worry about it because we can see it happening.”
It comes after the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said a decline in new cases in England “has now levelled off”.
In the week up to July 19, around one in 2,000 people were estimated to have coronavirus in the community in England. The previous week’s bulletin put the figure at one in 2,300.
So far the ONS has not said there is a statistically significant rise – but new figures will be published tomorrow.
He denied his comments about a second wave were an over-reaction and said he has “no regrets” about clamping down on Spanish travel – even though it’s ruined hundreds of thousands of holidays.
It comes as ministers prepare to reimpose quarantine tomorrow on people who come to the UK from certain countries with a spike.
But at least 11 countries where quarantine-free travel is possible have recorded increases in cases in recent days, with some reaching higher infection rates than Britain.
Belgium’s rate of new confirmed cases has gone from 6.2 per 100,000 population a fortnight ago, to 12 last week, to 19 this week, according to the latest weekly figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
France’s rate has gone from 5.7 to 8.7 over the same period while Germany has increased from 2.9 to 4.6 per 100,000.
Spain, which is now on the quarantine list, went from 8.9 a fortnight ago, to 18.9 last week, up to 29.7 this week.
Mr Hancock told Times Radio: “We have seen the case rate in Spain go up sharply. That is why we had to take the action that we did.
“We moved fast on Spain and I am very glad we did. Since we took the action we did, the case rate has continued to rise.
“We need to make sure we protect everybody in this country from the virus coming back again from Europe as it did in March.”
The first is to increase the amount of time people who show Covid-19 symptoms must self-isolate, from the current 7 days to 10 days.
That is expected to be announced today. Their households and close contacts, who could be incubating the virus, would still have to isolate for 14 days.
Mr Hancock told Sky News: “There is a serious concern about a second wave that’s clearly now moving across Europe and we need to take action – action to protect this country and protect everybody in it.
“And if that means increasing the number of days that people who tested positive have to self-isolate then so be it because these measures are necessary to keep people safe.”
The second idea – which is not expected to be announced imminently – is to reduce the two-week quarantine period in which people must isolate when coming to the UK from overseas.
Mr Hancock confirmed the idea is being looked at and would revolve around testing people to ensure they’re safe.
He told BBC Breakfast: “We are working on whether, by testing people during that quarantine, it is safe to then be able to release them earlier.
“So that’s something we are working on, but we are not imminently making an announcement on it because that work is not concluded.
“And until it is absolutely safe to make that sort of change, then we won’t do so.
“There are some countries in the world who do that but you’ve got to be absolutely certain you can track the people who come in, make sure they get the test, get the test result, and crucially that the likelihood of them having incubated it for longer than before you do the second test – that likelihood is very very low.”
He added: “We have asked the scientists to do that work and they’re doing that work, but we’re not ready to change that policy.
News – Second wave of coronavirus is ‘starting to roll across Europe’ says Matt Hancock