HEALTH Secretary Matt Hancock has pleaded with the public to follow coronavirus rules and reduce all social contact that is not ‘absolutely necessary’.

During a press conference at Downing Street this afternoon, Monday, he said that the new variant of coronavirus is ‘highly contagious’ and it is putting the NHS under ‘very significant pressure’.

Mr Hancock echoed the comments of England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty in saying ‘we’re at the worst point in this pandemic’.

He said: “The NHS, more than ever before, needs everybody to be doing something right now – and that something is to follow the rules.

“I know there has been speculation about more restrictions, and we don’t rule out taking further action if it is needed, but it is your actions now that can make a difference.

“Stay at home, and please reduce all social contact that is not absolutely strictly necessary. That’s what is needed – act like you have the virus.”

Mr Hancock added that the coronavirus vaccine roll-out across the country is ‘proceeding at pace’ and is the ‘the way out of the pandemic’.

The number of people in the UK to have been given a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine is nearly 2.3 million, according to Government figures.

Two fifths of over 80s and almost a quarter of older care home residents have received their first dose.

Outlining details of the vaccine roll-out, he continued: “I want this country to get back to normal as soon as possible and have that great British summer.

“I’m determined to ensure every that adult in this country has the chance to be vaccinated.”

Professor Stephen Powis, the National Medical Director for England, said that seven vaccination hubs and more than 1,000 pharmacies are gearing up to start delivering Covid-19 jabs.

Also speaking during the Downing Street press briefing, he explained that 1,200 pharmacies in England alone will join the vaccination roll-out.

“We will then kick off another sprint up to April as we get the rest of the vulnerable groups protected and finally a marathon to the autumn as we deliver vaccination to everyone else,” he said.

Mr Powis added that, apart from social distancing and Covid-19 safety measures, vaccines are the ‘best line of defence’ in the continued battle against coronavirus.