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UK Health Secretary criticised over coronavirus lockdown date

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Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care   -   Copyright  Frank Augstein/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved   -   In this Wednesday, March 11, 2020 file photo, Matt Hancock, Britain's Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, leaves 10 Downing Street in London.
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The UK's Health Secretary Matt Hancock has been criticised about the date the UK entered lockdown and has faced questions over his claims it started a full week earlier than it did.

Hancock was grilled in Parliament on Thursday over why the government didn't follow advice from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) to lock down sooner.

According to Sir Patrick Vallance, the Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government, SAGE advised the government to enter lockdown on March 16.

The opposition Labour party's Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth asked Hancock why it took "a further seven days" to place the UK under lockdown.

Hancock replied: "Of course, the 16th of March is the day that I came to this house and said that all unnecessary social contact should cease. That is precisely when the lockdown was started."

However, the UK did not enter a full lockdown until March 23, when Boris Johnson announced in a televised address: “I must give the British people a very simple instruction – you must stay at home.”

Leicester lockdown extended

Meanwhile, Leicester's lockdown has been extended for another two weeks, with just some of the restrictions being eased.

From July 24, restrictions on schools and early years childcare can be lifted and the government will be taking a "targeted approach" to opening non-essential retail.

However, the Health Secretary said it's too soon to open up the hospitality sector and social gatherings of a maximum of six people will remain in force.

Hancock said when the decision was made to place Leicester back under lockdown, there were 135 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 people, which was three times higher than the next highest city. Leicester was accounting for 10% of the deaths in the entire country.

As of Thursday July 16, the seven-day infection rate stands at 119 cases per 100,000 in Leicester. "But they still remain well above the national average" the Health Secretary warned. "I understand this hasn't been easy."

Use of Randox testing kits "paused until further notice"

Hancock announced a "pause" to the use of Randox coronavirus testing kits due to an issue with quality. Speaking in the House of Commons he said: "We've identified some swabs that are not up to the usual high standard that we expect and we'll be carrying out further testing of this batch."

He said this issue was brought to his attention on Wednesday afternoon and that he had contacted all settings using the kits on Wednesday evening to halt on using them whilst the government investigates further.

"Clinical advice is that there is no evidence of any harm, that test results are not affected, there is no issues with any of our other test swabs and there is no impact on access to testing," he added.