THE HEALTH Secretary said there is a 'challenge' in the South West to control the Covid-19 infection rate.

At the daily Downing Street briefing today (June 5) Matt Hancock said that the Covid-19 infection rate is not uniform and is higher in the North West and South West of England than other regions.

“There is a challenge in the North West of England to address and to a lesser degree in the South West of England where the issue is slightly different,” the Health Secretary told the No 10 briefing.

“In the South West the overall incidence of the disease is much lower but the R is a little bit higher than in the rest of the UK.”

Mr Hancock said Sage believes the 'R' rating is below one and said local lockdowns would be used when flare-ups are spotted, pointing towards a success in Weston-super-Mare.

 “You’re right that the R is closer to one in the South West and in the North West, the advice from Sage is that R is below one in all regions," the Health Secretary said.

“However, we want to increasingly have an approach in tackling local lockdowns where we spot a flare-up.

“We’ve been doing this over the last few weeks, for instance there was a flare-up in Weston-super-Mare which we successfully got under control.”

The Health Secretary said a study suggests a higher R number in some regions needs to be looked at “in the round” with other data.

He said: “The discussion of the higher R in the North-West and the South-West that’s estimated compared to the rest of the country is an important part of moving towards a more localised approach rather than a national approach to the lockdown.

“It’s very important that you look at all of these studies in the round.

“The study you mentioned is one, but the overall assessment that is brought together by Sage that advises the chief medical officer is the one that I look at.”

He added: “What I do is look at all of these different studies and the overall view of Sage is that the R is between 0.7 and 0.9 and it is higher in the South-West of England and the North-West but it remains below 1 in each area.

“That doesn’t take away from the need that we spot and crack down on localised outbreaks.”

The UK's coronavirus death toll passed 40,000 today and Mr Hancock said it will make him “redouble” his determination to deal with coronavirus.

The Health Secretary told the Downing Street briefing: “I think the day that the number of deaths from coronavirus has gone over 40,000 is a time of sorrow for us all.

“We’ve got to remember that each one of these is an impact on a family that will never be the same again and my heart goes out to them all.

“And it makes me redouble my determination to deal with this virus and to get that incidence right down and the way you get the incidence down is… to keep the R below one.”