Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, the Health Secretary claimed he would prefer not to resort to police-enforced measures but admitted a tougher approach may be needed to combat the coronavirus outbreak in the UK. Asked whether he accepts that the Government may “have to use the authorities to tell people what to do, not just to advise them what to do”, Mr Hancock replied: “Yes. And, in fact, on Saturday I signed the order to give the police the power to be able to shut bars and restaurants and pubs if they’re still open.
“This isn’t the sort of thing I ever wanted to do but it’s the sort of thing that, as a nation, we’ve got to be prepared to see in order to stop this virus.
“These are unpleasant and very difficult times and I keep in the front of my mind the 1.4 million people who work for the NHS.
“Because they’re going into hospitals, into the NHS to look after people, including to care for people who have coronavirus, and we’ve got to keep them safe.
“And the best way to keep them safe is, of course, to stop the spread of the disease.
“So I feel a deep responsibility towards looking out for them and making sure that the NHS is protected.
“And that does require some quite significant effort like giving police the powers.”
The Health Secretary said it was “selfish” of people to continue to socialise as the NHS battles to tackle the coronavirus epidemic.
Asked why people were ignoring the advice for social distancing, the Cabinet minister said: “I don’t know, because it is very selfish.
“The message yesterday was incredibly clear – it is across every single front page,” the Secretary of State said.
“It is that if people don’t follow the rules, we are going to have to get tougher still.
“That was very clear from the news conference, it is very clear in how it has been communicated. That’s what we are going to be looking at today.
“The message is you have to stay away from others, you have to avoid unnecessary social contact. That is very important, that is very clear.”
Published at Mon, 23 Mar 2020 09:18:00 +0000