Advice changes for shielding people 'not rushed', claims Matt Hancock

Cat Neilan
Matt Hancock today

Advice for people who have spent the last 10 weeks shielding was not "rushed through", Matt Hancock has said today, fending off criticism from anxious patients. 

During the daily briefing the Health Secretary was twice asked about the changes, which were announced at the weekend and came into being today - including from a member of the public. 

Under the new guidelines, people shielding are now allowed to venture outdoors once per day, either with members of their household or one person from another household - as long as social distancing and strict hygiene is maintained.

But responding to reports of GPs being inundated by calls from patients worried about the speed of changes, Hancock said: "It hasn't been rushed through, far from it.

"We've worked for some time to make sure that any changes that we make and these are small, cautious changes, can benefit people in a safe way.

"We announced it at the weekend and I think that being able to make changes like this is important for people. It's important for - especially for those who are shielded."

He added: "Absolutely once we made the decision, including and in collaboration with all of the Government bodies, we then communicated that decision and this was the right time to be able to change that advice."

Mr Hancock used the briefing to urge people who have symptoms to get tested, as he championed the initial success of the Government's Test & Trace programme, with people showing a "willingness" to isolate when asked. But neither he nor the testing tzar John Newton were able to confirm how many people have been asked so far. 

The Cabinet minister confirmed that 111 people have died with coronavirus in the last 24 hours - the lowest number since lockdown began on March 23.