The British health secretary has said that he will set out a new swathe of measures to tackle Covid-19 later today, inevitably plunging more of the population into a higher tier, after the UK registered 53,135 cases on Tuesday.

Speaking on Wednesday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the approval of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine was “good news” and promised to help get life back to normal, but he said more action needs to be taken to fight the resurgent virus. 

Hancock told the BBC’s ‘Breakfast’ programme that he was going to set out the details of new, tougher Covid restrictions in the House of Commons later today. He did not elaborate on the measures but said “it’s important we keep this under control.” 

The health secretary reiterated his message to Sky News, repeating the need to take “further action” and adding that the “challenge of suppressing the virus has got harder,” as the majority of new Covid-19 infections “are the new variant.” 

According to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), the new virus strain, prevalent across the UK, is “56% more transmissible.”  

Hancock also announced that the AstraZeneca vaccine, approved on Wednesday, will start to be rolled out from January 4, a big step in boosting the UK’s inoculation programme. 

“The NHS will be able to deliver these shots into people’s arms at the speed at which it can be manufactured,” he told Sky News. 

“I am also now, with this approval this morning, highly confident that we can get enough vulnerable people vaccinated by the spring that we can now see our route out of this pandemic.” 

The two doses of the vaccine will be given with a 12-week interval, allowing health authorities to give partial immunity to as much of the population as possible. 

Hancock added that the second dose is vital to help boost “long-term coverage” against the virus. 

A number of experts and politicians have called on the government to accelerate their vaccination programme in order to avoid a “catastrophic” start to 2021. 

A study by the LSHTM has warned that the UK needs to increase its vaccinations to two million doses per week – a tenfold jump – and maintain a Tier 4 lockdown across the country if it is to prevent a further surge in Covid-19 driven by the highly infectious strain.

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