Matt Hancock shut down claims that Nicola Sturgeon had taken a lead over Downing Street in the UK’s coronavirus response, as he repeatedly insisted that it was “too early” to lift lockdown measures. Nicola Sturgeon stunned Downing Street officials this week after she laid out a “grown-up conversation” on lifting lockdown measures in Scotland. This saw Scotland break with the rest of the UK, which has so far refused to discuss its post-lockdown exit strategy.
Speaking on Good Morning Britain, Mr Hancock was grilled on whether Mrs Sturgeon had taken the “upper hand” in the coronavirus response as cracks begin to appear in the unified UK response.
Mr Hancock says it would “not take much” for the progress made fighting coronavirus to be lost if people stop following the social distancing rules.
He tried to insist that Mrs Sturgeon was simply following UK government principles – but Scotland appears to have taken this a step further with a more detailed strategy.
There is growing frustration at the Government’s refusal to offer a lockdown exit strategy after Mr Hancock repeatedly insisted it is “still too soon” to think about lifting measures.
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He responded to the criticism: “Some people are looking for us to come out of this, but the truth is it is too soon to make changes to the social distancing rules safely.
“People should follow the rules because it was is needed, to keep this virus under control.
“It looks like we are at a peak and that we have flattened the curve but it wouldn’t take much to lose the grip we have on it.”
Pressure has been building on Westminster politicians to begin thinking about a way out of lockdown after Scotland set out its own path.
She said: “I can’t promise you that it is going to get a whole lot easier soon. We want to ease restrictions – of course we do – but we cannot absolutely rule out having to reapply some of them in future should we have evidence that the virus is again running out of control.”
Last week, the UK set out five tests for lifting the lockdown but refuse to produce a more detailed strategy amid fears it would lead people to ignore social distancing rules.
However, in lock-step with the rest of the UK, Mrs Sturgeon did confirm that some measures will stay in place for the bulk of this year.
She added that any easing is likely to be in a phased manner and economy is likely to be opened “sector by sector.”