Watch: Matt Hancock says COVID needs to change ‘British way of soldiering on with flu and making everyone ill’
Matt Hancock slams ‘British way’ of people ‘soldiering on into work’ when they have flu symptoms
‘Why do we think it’s acceptable?’ he told MPs on the health and social care committee
Health secretary says it’s a key lesson workers and employers can learn from the COVID pandemic
Health secretary Matt Hancock has said the coronavirus pandemic needs to change the “British way” of people “soldiering on into work” when they have flu symptoms.
Hancock, speaking to MPs at a House of Commons committee on Tuesday, said the COVID-19 crisis should alter people’s attitude to public health once it is over.
Hancock criticised what he views as a British cultural norm of going into work “as long as you can get out of bed”.
During a joint meeting of the health and social care committee and science and technology committee addressing lessons learned from the pandemic, Hancock said: “I want to have a change in the British way of doing things, where ‘if in doubt get a test’ doesn’t just refer to coronavirus but refers to any illness you might have.
“Why in Britain do we think it’s acceptable to soldier on and go into work if you have flu symptoms or a runny nose, thus making your colleagues ill?
“I think that’s something that’s going to have to change.”
Hancock pointed to this year’s downturn of respiratory diseases – apart from COVID – being treated in the NHS as a result of social distancing.
He went on: “If you have in future, I hope, flu-like symptoms, you should get a test for it. Find out what’s wrong with you and if you need to stay at home to protect others, then you should stay at home.
“We are peculiarly unusual outliers in soldiering on and still going into work, and it kind of being the culture that you just… ‘as long as you can get get out of bed, you still should get into work’.
“That should change.”
Earlier in the meeting, Hancock said new habits acquired during the pandemic, such as regular hand washing, should also continue as he signalled a return to normality at Easter.
“Now, there are some things that are ‘no regrets’, right? Washing your hands more and some parts of social distancing are ‘no regrets’ things that, I think, will become commonplace.
“But those damaging social distancing interventions that have downsized, whether economic or social downsides in terms of our wellbeing... I should hope that we can lift those after Easter if these two vaccines are approved by the regulator.”
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