THE Health Secretary has said Lockdown restrictions in England will remain in place for "as long as they are necessary" and suggested there are no current plans to tighten existing rules.

Matt Hancock said it was "impossible to know" when restrictions could be eased.

In an interview on Sky News, Mr Hancock said: "We will keep the restrictions in place not a moment longer than they are necessary, but we will keep them in place as long as they are necessary.

"These measures that we have got in place that we hope to be able to lift - and we should be able to lift, when we have been able to protect through vaccination those who are vulnerable - right now, the vaccination is not in a position to do that.”

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Hancock said the current rules were always "under review" but "what really matters now is the degree to which everybody follows the existing rules.”

He added: "Of course you can always make changes at the margin, but we brought in a very significant restriction, the stay at home measures…

"It is possible then to make further restrictions, but what I’d say is that the most important thing is compliance with the existing measures, that’s the thing that is going to make the difference."

Asked if he would specifically change the rule on people meeting one other person outside, he said: "We always keep these things under review, but you’ve got to balance the downsides."

He said the rule on exercising with one other person “is clear”, but was "very reluctant to remove this rule" because for some people, such as those living alone, it is an "absolute lifeline".

Mr Hancock added that when two people meet for socially distanced exercise, the “likelihood of spread from people who are following that rule is very, very small”.

But he said some were clearly "stretching that rule", adding: "People should not take the mickey out of the rules and they shouldn’t stretch the rules, people should respect the rules, because they’re there for a reason and that’s to keep everybody safe.”

Asked if the UK has now hit the peak of this wave, as some data may suggest, Mr Hancock said: "Well, I want it to be. But again, that comes down to the behaviour of everyone.

"Together we can make this the peak if enough people follow the rules, which are incredibly clear."

Mr Hancock said sending patients to hotels was a "further back-up plan” for some step-down patients, but “it’s not something we are actively putting in place".

And he said the NHS was ready to vaccinate people 24 hours a day, seven days a week if necessary.

"We're absolutely up for doing that if it helps to speed up the vaccination programme," he said.

“I can’t see that being the major factor, because most people want to get vaccinated in the daytime, and also most people who are doing the vaccinations want to give them in the daytime, but there may be circumstances in which that would help.

“And we’re absolutely up for that."