It's 'a long, long way' until lockdown restrictions are lifted - Hancock

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Matt Hancock does not know when restrictions will be lifted. - Credit: Pippa Fowles/Crown/Downing Street/PA Wire

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned the government is a "long, long, long way" from being able to lift coronavirus lockdown restrictions in England.

Mr Hancock said there was evidence that restrictions in place were having an impact while the vaccination programme was making "brilliant progress".

Covid rates are continuing to fall across Norfolk, with a big drop in Norwich, which had seen its rate rise hitting highs of 636 cases per 100,000 people.

In Suffolk, Coronavirus case rates continue to fall and all areas of Suffolk are now below the national average after Ipswich fell from 625.21 per 100,000 people to 417.78 in the seven days to January 19. 

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The message is to Stay Home. Save Lives. - Credit: PA

Mr Hancock said that case numbers nationally were "incredibly high" and the NHS remained under intense pressure.

"There is early evidence that the lockdown is starting to bring cases down but we are a long, long, long way from being low enough because the case rate was incredibly high," he told Sky News's Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme.

"You can see the pressure on the NHS - you can see it every day."

The estimated R number in the East of England has also decreased and is now estimated to be between 0.6 and 0.9.

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Mr Hancock said that while he hoped schools in England could reopen by Easter, it would depend on the levels of infection in the community at that time.

"We have got to look at the data, we have got to look at the impact of the vaccination programme," he said.

"The Education Secretary (Gavin Williamson) has said that we will ensure schools get two weeks' notice of return. I don't know whether it will be then or before then. We have got to watch the data."

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