In Depth

Reaction: UK tackling more than 100 coronavirus outbreaks a week, reveals Hancock

Health minister says flare-ups being contained ‘swiftly and silently’ through local lockdowns

Matt Hancock has revealed that “targeted action” is being taken to battle more than 100 local coronavirus outbreaks across the UK every week. 

In an article for The Telegraph, the health secretary says that increased testing capacity means “we can take more targeted local action and less national lockdown, to restore the freedom of the majority while controlling the virus wherever we can find it”.

Some of these local lockdowns “will make the news but many more are swiftly and silently dealt with”, he writes.

The publication of Hancock’s article comes a day after 73 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed at a farm in Herefordshire. The outbreak has seen 200 workers put under lockdown and has fed “concerns over further outbreaks happening as seasonal workers gather for harvest time”, says the newspaper’s political editor Gordon Rayner.

Today marks two weeks since Hancock announced that Leicester would become the first UK city to be placed under local lockdown, a decision that the health secretary said would be reviewed this week, ITV reports.

Officials will continue to “hunt down the virus” by targeting areas of concern, aided by “the incredible efforts of local authorities – all of whom have stepped up and published their local outbreak control plans in line with the end of June deadline”, Hancock writes. 

 “The government strategy of targeted local responses whenever data suggests a coronavirus flare-up is a key part of its ongoing plan to reopen British businesses in different phases,” the BBC reports.

In the latest easing of lockdown measures, beauty salons, spas, tattoo parlours and nail bars in England are welcoming back customers from today.

According to Hancock, more than 250 testing centres are now operating nationwide, and the government is also “deploying a dozen walk-in testing centres”.

“Where we find a cluster or outbreak, we send in extra testing, including mobile testing units that can be deployed anywhere in the country,” he adds.

The BBC says that “clusters of cases” in hospitals, factories or schools will be dealt with by closing the premises. 

The A&E unit in a hospital in Boris Johnson’s local constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip has already been shut owing to a “coronavirus spike”, the Financial Times reports. 

About 70 staff at Hillingdon Hospital are also self-isolating after testing positive for Covid-19 or because of contact with an infected person, in an outbreak that showed the “potential for spikes in the disease to disrupt services as the country starts to reopen”, the newspaper adds.

Asked during an interview on BBC Breakfast what constituted a coronavirus outbreak, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said each case would be treated separately, but added that “I think we know it when we see it”. 

Pushed on whether the virus spreading outside of a household or social bubble would constitute an outbreak, Buckland added: “I defer to the experts in this. 

“They know what an outbreak constitutes when they see it, and I think with each one that we see we get more knowledgeable, more sophisticated, and are able to respond in ever more appropriate ways.”

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