Matt Hancock warns 'flexing' of Covid lockdown rules could be fatal

The UK health secretary has backed more stringent enforcement of the lockdown by police and warned that "every flexibility" of the rules could prove fatal.

Matt Hancock said the majority of people are "following the rules" to stay at home, but he refused to criticise the police over complaints that some forces have been over-zealous in handing out fines.

Police tactics have come in for scrutiny after Derbyshire Police handed out £200 fines to two women who drove separately to go for a walk at a remote beauty spot situated around five miles from their homes.

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock walks through Downing Street on his way into No.10 in London. Picture: AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File

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The constabulary has since confirmed it will be reviewing all fixed penalty notices issued during the new national lockdown in England after it received clarification about the coronavirus regulations from the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) following the incident.

Mr Hancock, asked about Derbyshire Police's approach, told Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme: "I'm absolutely going to back the police because the challenge here is that every flex can be fatal.

"You might look at the rules and think 'well, it doesn't matter too much if I just do this or do that'.

"But these rules are not there as boundaries to be pushed, they are the limit to what people should be doing.

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"The police are right to take very seriously the rules we have brought in. We haven't brought them in because we wanted to, we've brought them in because we had to.

"Every flexibility can be fatal."

The comments came after home secretary Priti Patel also offered her support to those on the front line of policing the lockdown, stressing there was "a need for strong enforcement where people are clearly breaking these rules" and vowed that officers would "not hesitate to take action".

But John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said on BBC Breakfast that a review would be necessary after the Derbyshire incident and called for more clarity on the guidance from ministers.

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England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty has warned the NHS is facing the "most dangerous situation" in living memory, and said the only way to prevent avoidable deaths is for the public to stay at home wherever possible.

Some experts have branded the current lockdown measures not strict enough.

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