Former Health Secretary says Covid restrictions should remain until the UK reaches 1,000 cases per day

The former Health Secretary has warned against reopening the economy too soon (Photo: Stefan Rousseau - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has suggested that some form of social restrictions should remain in place until coronavirus cases are down to 1,000 per day.

In a recent interview with The Guardian, the current chair of the Health Select Committee and former Health Secretary said that the Government should take a South Korean approach to coronavirus, using intensive contact tracing while maintaining curbs on everyday life until cases are down to around 1,000 per day.

Sign up to our public interest bulletins - get the latest news on the Coronavirus

Sign up to our public interest bulletins - get the latest news on the Coronavirus

Currently, daily coronavirus infections are at around 20,000 in the UK, meaning this approach would likely involve restrictions in place throughout summer.

The last time UK infections were at a level below 1,000 per day was in August 2020.

'The game has changed massively'

Hunt's comments come in the wake of some debate among ministers and experts as to when the economy should reopen for business.

Hunt himself warned against rushing ahead too quickly with opening up, pointing to new variants of the virus as a potential risk factor.

He told The Guardian: "I think we have to recognise that the game has changed massively over Christmas with these new variants, and that we mustn’t make the mistake that we made last year of thinking that we’re not going to have another resurgence of the virus."

Over the next few weeks, the Government face some key decisions over the path to reopening pubs, shops and other businesses, with schools currently set to return from 8 March.

Reports on Thursday 4 February suggesting that Chancellor Rishi Sunak is frustrated with the slow pace on lifting restrictions have been denied by his aides.

An aide to Sunak said he “takes the same view as the prime minister and others across government: we should be cautious in our approach”.

Downing Street, however, is facing pressure from a group of Tory backbenchers who wish to see curbs lifted more rapidly to get the economy moving.

The Prime Minister has promised a "road map" setting out the pathway out of lockdown in the week of 22 February, which is likely to include details on the reopening of hospitality businesses and the removal of the "stay at home" order.