'Every flex' of lockdown rules 'could be fatal', Matt Hancock warns

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, MP for West Suffolk which includes Haverhill, said he was "concerned"

West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock has said that "every flexibility" of the lockdown rules could prove fatal. - Credit: PA

West Suffolk MP and health secretary Matt Hancock has backed more stringent enforcement of the third national coronavirus lockdown by police - warning that "every flexibility" of the rules could prove fatal.

The health secretary said the majority of people are "following the rules" to stay at home, in an interview with Sky News' Sophy Ridge.

However, he refused to criticise police over complaints that some forces have been over-zealous in handing out fines.

Asked about Derbyshire Police, who have come in for scrutiny after handing out £200 fines to two women who drove separately to go for a walk at a remote beauty spot, he said: "I'm absolutely going to back the police because the challenge here is that every flex can be fatal.

"You might look at the rules and think: 'Well, it doesn't matter too much if I just do this or do that.'

"But these rules are not there as boundaries to be pushed - they are the limit to what people should be doing.

"The police are right to take very seriously the rules we have brought in. We haven't brought them in because we wanted to, we've brought them in because we had to.

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"Every flexibility can be fatal."

Derbyshire Constabulary has since confirmed it will be reviewing all fixed penalty notices issued during the new national lockdown in England after it received clarification about the coronavirus regulations from the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) following the incident.

The comments came after home secretary and Witham MP Priti Patel also backed those on the frontline of policing the lockdown.

She stressed that there is "a need for strong enforcement where people are clearly breaking these rules" and vowed that officers will "not hesitate to take action".

England's chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, has warned that the NHS is facing the "most dangerous situation" in living memory.

He said the only way to prevent avoidable deaths is for the public to stay at home wherever possible.

Some experts have branded the current lockdown measures not strict enough, in the face of the more transmissible variant which has spread rapidly in many parts of the country.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer suggested he endorsed that position on BBC One's Andrew Marr Show.