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6 May 2020updated 06 Oct 2020 9:45am

Restrictions on the most vulnerable could be eased even without vaccine, Hancock says

By Samuel Horti

Restrictions on the 1.5 million “clinically extremely vulnerable” people in the UK who have been told to remain home for 12 weeks could be eased even without a vaccine, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.

The government is expected to keep restrictions in place for this group when lockdown is eased to “shield” them from coronavirus. But Hancock told Sky News that the government “may well be able to release some of those measures before a vaccine is available” if the number of new cases goes “right down”.

“If we succeed in doing that we will be able to take clinical advice on whether it is safe for those who are shielded to, for instance, to hug their grandchildren. That is right at the front of my mind,” he said.

Hancock also suggested cafés, and other businesses with outdoor space, might be up and running relatively soon. When questioned by a member of the public, a café owner, Hancock said there was “strong evidence” the spread of coronavirus was “much, much lower” outdoors.

“There may be workarounds that some businesses, for instance cafés, especially over the summer, may be able to put into place,” he said.

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He added that it was unlikely that the two-metre distancing rule would change. He also said there was a chance of schools remaining closed until September.

Expect more detail during Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s address to the nation on Sunday.