Matt Hancock defended spending almost £44,000 on takeaways for his workers in the Department of Health. The Health Secretary said many people were working 18 hours a day and seven days a week. Ms Burley had asked: “I see from my newspaper this morning that your department spent almost £44,000 on takeaways. Is that true and if so, how can you justify that amount of money?”
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Hancock said: “I can absolutely justify feeding people who are working 18 hours to keep you and everyone else in this country safe.
“My team in the department have been unbelievable.
“A combination of my civil servants, who have been there from the start, and NHS colleagues and military colleagues.
“One point, one of the floors of my department had people from the logistics brigade in uniform moving capabilities around the country.
“When people are working 18 hours a day often seven days a week in the middle of the pandemic, of course I’m going to feed them.
“It’s possibly the best value food you can get in terms of allowing people working so hard to tackle this virus.
“I’m really proud of them.”
His comments came as the second peak of coronavirus was “flattening” – but Mr Hancock warned the public must “keep our resolve” for the rest of the lockdown to prevent it rebounding.
Mr Hancock said it was still too early to say what contact people will be able to have over Christmas and what additional restrictions may be required after lockdown is eased.
Speaking with Mr Hancock at a Downing Street press conference, professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England, also urged caution and suggested any gains from the second national lockdown could be quickly lost as it takes “just seconds” for the virus to spread.
But referring to the “ray of light” that may be provided by a vaccine, the Health Secretary confirmed he has formally asked the UK’s regulator to assess the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for use here.
He said the consideration by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) of the vaccine is “another important step forward in tackling this pandemic”.
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Addressing the Downing Street press conference on Friday, he said the latest infection figures are “promising” and added that “they show that the second peak is flattening”.
Prof Van-Tam and NHS England national medical director Professor Stephen Powis both joined Mr Hancock remotely for the briefing, as they were self-isolating.
Prof Van-Tam said he was isolating “due to a household contact” while Prof Powis confirmed earlier this week that he was doing so after a member of his household tested positive for coronavirus.
Prof Van-Tam said: “It just takes a few seconds to create new infections through unneeded close contact.”