Covid-19 infections are now "back under control" - just as England is set to be plunged into a harsher Tiers system, Matt Hancock said tonight.
The Health Secretary hailed the latest figures showing case rates going down after the month-long lockdown, just as the nation is about to be shoved into a harsh system of tiers keeping pubs closed and stopping people from seeing friends and family.
Speaking at the No10 press conference tonight, he claimed that the lockdown has worked in "reducing the pressures on the NHS".
He stated: "We've got this virus back under control, I want to thank you for that."
And Professor Stephen Powis of NHS England said today that in recent days "we have started to turn the corner" on hospital admissions.
It takes a couple of weeks before the effects of a national lockdown to be shown, he explained today.
He added: "It will be the next week or two where we see the full effects come through."
The average number of new coronavirus cases has plummeted from a peak of 25,331 in mid-November to 14,778.
Crucially, the R rate - the rate of the transmission of the virus - is just below 1.
This means the national lockdown will be allowed to end in what Mr Hancock and people will be able to reunite with families over Christmas.
But the Health Secretary warned there was not much "headroom" and it was still vital new cases continued to go down.
He said: "Everyone in England can have some greater freedoms but we don't have much headroom.
"We can't allow cases to rise again in the run up to Christmas and with the flu season around the corner."
Coronavirus ‘back under control’ as England to be plunged into harsher Tiers system, Matt Hancock says
From Brexit breaking news to HD movie trailers, The Sun newspaper brings you the latest news videos and explainers from the UK and around the world.
Become a Sun Subscriber and hit the bell to be the first to know
Read The Sun: www.thesun.co.uk
Like The Sun on Facebook: www.facebook.com/thesun/
Follow The Sun on Twitter: twitter.com/TheSun
Subscribe to The Sun on Snapchat: www.snapchat.com/discover/The_Sun/1633225139