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BBC host erupts at Matt Hancock as Health Secretary hits back at 'shambolic' policy claims

BBC Today programme presenter Sarah Smith suggested the decision to announce new restrictions three hours ahead of their introduction was “shambolic” and did not elicit the “confidence of the public.” Health Secretary Matt Hancock insisted the Government had to act quickly after data showed a concerning spike in coronavirus cases in the Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire. The BBC host said: “These measures that came into force at midnight they mean that different households will not be allowed to meet in homes or private gardens but individual households can still go to pubs and restaurants.

“You announced this less than three hours before they were due to come into force.

“It looks rather shambolic and it doesn’t spark public confidence. Why was it announced this way?”

Mr Hancock insisted the Government and local authorities had been monitoring the situation for weeks but the restrictions had to be quickly reimposed over concerns of a new spike in COVID-19 cases.

He said: “On the contrary, as we’ve seen throughout this crisis, we do have to move fast sometimes and we’ve been working with the local authorities, including with Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, and with the other local authorities across the area for some weeks, trying to tackle the rise in cases in a more localised way.

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“But we’ve seen an increase in the spread more broadly across Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and some parts of West Yorkshire and therefore we had to take the action that we did.”

However, Ms Smith once again challenged the timing of the announcement: “Andy Burnham says he agrees with you, the action had to be taken. He says he’s been watching the position change over the last seven days.

“Why did you have to announce this less than three hours before the rules were going to change so late in the evening when many people will not have found out about the new rules.”

Mr Hancock hit back: “We announced the decision as soon as practical. I think that’s what people expect.”

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The BBC host yet again intervened to suggest the last-minute announcement will not inspire public confidence in the Government.

She added: “I don’t think that’s what people expect, frankly.

“A tweet at 9.16 in the evening telling them that, as of midnight, the rules are going to change.

“You want people to follow your lead, follow what you say. That requires public confidence in how the Government is handling this and that is not something that is going to inspire confidence.”



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