'Impossible to know' when lockdown will be eased, admits Matt Hancock

It is ‘impossible to know’ when England’s third national lockdown will end, Matt Hancock has admitted.

A number of Conservative MPs have called for the shutdown to start being eased from March 8 following two months of harsh restrictions.

However, the health minister refused to offer a date in an interview this morning, insisting: ‘I’m the health secretary and I haven’t put a timescale on it’.

Speaking to Sky News, the Tory politician said the country was ‘not in a position’ to think about easing rules as millions of vulnerable people had yet to be vaccinated.

He also confirmed reports that NHS bosses are considering discharging thousands of patients into hotels in order to free up beds for Covid sufferers, as hospitals struggle under the pressure of the second wave.

Mr Hancock: ‘We will keep the restrictions in place not a moment longer than they are necessary, but we will keep them in place as long as they are necessary.

‘These measures that we have got in place that we hope to be able to lift, and we should be able to lift when we have been able to protect through vaccination those who are vulnerable – right now the vaccination is not in a position to do that.’

A report from The Guardian on Tuesday claimed: ‘Hospital chiefs in England intend to start discharging patients early on a scale never seen before’.

Addressing the report, Mr Hancock confirmed hospital bosses will soon invoke an emergency measure to create ‘extra emergency contingency capacity’.

The NHS is said to be asking care homes to start accepting coronavirus patients from hospitals without a negative test – as long as they have been in isolation for two weeks and have shown no new symptoms.

Mr Hancock said: ‘There are huge pressures on the NHS and we are looking to all different ways that we can relieve those pressures.

‘We would only ever do that if it was clinically the right thing for somebody. In some cases, people need sit-down care, they don’t actually need to be in hospital bed.

‘It isn’t a concrete proposal by any means but it is something that we look at as we look at all contingencies.’

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