Matt Hancock insists coronavirus situation is 'perilous' amid ongoing Yorkshire talks

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The Health Secretary has warned the coronavirus situation across the country is “perilous” as he defended the Government’s approach to tackling the virus.

Matt Hancock told MPs this afternoon that deaths from the disease had doubled in the last 12 days.

But it comes as analysis of infection rates showed the virus may now be hitting towns and suburban areas harder than large cities.

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An announcement is expected tomorrow over whether South Yorkshire will go into Tier 3 restrictions - the highest level - as it is understood Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis continued to push for a more generous furlough package.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock delivering a ministerial statement on COVID-19 in the House of Commons. Photo: Uk Parliament/Jessica TaylorHealth Secretary Matt Hancock delivering a ministerial statement on COVID-19 in the House of Commons. Photo: Uk Parliament/Jessica Taylor
Health Secretary Matt Hancock delivering a ministerial statement on COVID-19 in the House of Commons. Photo: Uk Parliament/Jessica Taylor

But there was confusion over the rules in the region today as City of York Council was forced to deny that it was heading into Tier 3 measures after a national newspaper report, while another report suggested Sheffield City Region was to head into Tier 3 “imminently” today too.

Meanwhile Dr Lincoln Sargeant, North Yorkshire’s director of public health, said that having all of Yorkshire and the Humber in the same tier would make it easier for people to understand.

He said: “There is an active discussion going on about whether Yorkshire and Humber, particularly those of us in the Yorkshire Coast and Vale area should move together into Tier 2.”

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Sharon Stoltz, York’s director of public health, said: “There are currently no plans to move York into Tier 3 and we have not received anything from central government to suggest that this is likely.”

Both West and South Yorkshire are currently in Tier 2 restrictions, banning household mixing indoors, while North Yorkshire and Hull and the East Riding are in Tier 1.

Mr Hancock told the Commons today that talks were still ongoing with South and West Yorkshire over whether the areas would be required to move up to Tier 3, where all household mixing is banned and pubs must close.

Yorkshire MPs from both major parties urged Mr Hancock to provide more support for businesses.

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Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford Labour MP Yvette Cooper warned that hospitality owners and staff she had spoken to “all said that business had plummeted” going into Tier 2.

While Colne Valley Tory Jason McCartney said: “It’s clear that local people do want the tier system to work, but that does mean we need more financial support for Tier 3 and Tier 2, especially hospitality, where custom is really down.”

Mr Hancock said: “The combination of all the schemes that are available to businesses is something of a scale that this country has never had.”

Mr McCartney also asked for a “clear framework for timescales” and for how areas could move out of restrictions, but Mr Hancock said it was not possible to provide those.

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There were 14 deaths recorded in Yorkshire today in people who had previously tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the region’s total to at least 3,105. Nationally, 80 further deaths were reported, bringing the total to 43,726.

And Mr Hancock told that the situation was “perilous” with deaths doubling in the last 12 days.

He told MPs Covid-19 is “on the offensive” as winter draws in, telling the Commons: “Weekly deaths in Europe have increased by 33 per cent and here in the UK deaths have tragically doubled in the last 12 days. The situation remains perilous.”

But weekly coronavirus rates in Sheffield and Leeds, as well as other major cities, have dropped.

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Overall the numbers suggest the hotspots for Covid-19 in England may have tilted away from big cities and towards built-up areas that do not necessarily have densely-housed student populations – and that the virus is now being spread increasingly through community infections rather than circulating largely within student accommodation.