'Too soon’ to vary lockdown rules by region, says Business Secretary, amid concerns over infection rate in North East

A senior Minister has said it is “too soon” to look at adjusting coronavirus restrictions by region after the Government came under pressure to listen to concerns in the North East over easing lockdown restrictions.

By Ryan Smith
Sunday, 17th May 2020, 7:04 pm
Updated Monday, 18th May 2020, 2:54 pm

Business Secretary Alok Sharma took questions on the issue at today’s Downing Street briefing.

In the public questions part of the daily briefing, Mr Sharma took a question on the regional R rate (infection rate) from Peter, who lives in County Durham.

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Business Secretary Alok Sharma has said it is "too soon" for regional variations of lockdown measures.

Peter asked the Secretary of State if the Government acknowledges “a phased lifting of lockdown measures would have been a better option”.

It comes after figures released by Public Health England show the North East and Yorkshire to have the highest R rate in England, said to be around 0.8.

The Business Secretary responded, claiming the “whole of the UK approach” was the best method at the moment – but didn’t rule out the possibility of measures varying by region in the future.

Alok Sharma said: “As national monitoring becomes much more precise and on a larger scale, more devolved variations could be looked at.”

He added: “It is too soon for any of that right now and that is why we continue to take a whole of the UK approach.”

NHS England national medical director Stephen Powis commented that the Government will focus on R rates going forward.

He said: "There will be variations between different parts of the country, that occurs naturally in epidemics.

"We see that, for instance, in flu season each winter.

"What's important going forward is we will be able to measure R direct."

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