Nine times Matt Hancock told us to obey the rules

Nine times Matt Hancock told us to obey the rules
Stefan Rousseau - WPA Pool/Getty Images
Text settings

Boris Johnson may consider the 'case closed' but what does the public think of Matt Hancock's fling? For 15 months the embattled Health Secretary has been the face of the government's Covid policies, appearing at dozens of press briefings and being one of the most ardent lockdown proponents in Whitehall.

Given his countless interviews, statements, conferences and appearances in which he urged the public not to break the restrictions drawn up by his department, Steerpike thought it would be instructive to gather a list of some of Hancock's most authoritarian quotes.

From threatening to ban outdoor exercise and close the beaches to advising against sex outside 'established' relationships, Mr S presents his round-up of Hancock's best/worst moments:

9 February 2021:  Ten years in jail for Covid returnees

Hancock announced that people returning from holidays who conceal that they’ve been in a red list country would face a prison sentence of up to ten years. He declared: 

I make no apologies for the strength of these measures because we’re dealing with one of the strongest threats to our public health that we’ve faced as a nation. I know that most people have been doing their bit, making huge sacrifices as part of the national effort and these new enforcement powers will make sure their hard work and sacrifice isn’t undermined by a minority who don’t want to follow the rules.

1 February 2021 ‘Don’t even think about stretching Covid rules’

At another No. 10 press conference, Hancock gave an update on the South African variant in which he said that those living in postcodes affected by the mutation should 'not even think about stretching the Covid rules.'

10 January 2021: Hancock claimed that flexing of rules 'could be fatal'

The Health Secretary appeared on the Andrew Marr Show where he was asked about the police fining two women who went for a walk five miles from their homes. Hancock told Marr: 'Every time you try to flex the rules that could be fatal' and that staying at home is the 'most important thing we can do collectively as a society.'

24 September 2020:  Hancock warned people to 'be sensible' when having sex during lockdown

Asked about the government’s guidance that only 'established' couples should be having sex, Hancock told Sky News: 'There have to be boundaries, to coin a phrase.' He warned against casual sex, advising the public to stick to 'well-established relationships' and joking 'I know I am in an established relationship' with his wife.

7 September 2020: 'Young people' behind Covid spike

Ahead of university students returning for the new academic year, Hancock have an interview to Radio 1 Newsbeat in which he pointed to France and Spain, saying: 

Where that second wave started largely amongst younger people, it then spreads. and now we're seeing a sharp rise in the number of people in hospital and the number of people who are dying in those countries. That hasn't happened here yet. And if people follow the social distancing rules, then we can stop that from happening here.

5 July 2020: Hancock threatened to shut down non-compliant businesses

In an interview with Sky Hancock said: 'We also have the authority to shut down a business if it doesn't follow that [Covid] guidance.' When asked by Sophy Ridge if he is 'looking at shutting down businesses' Hancock replied: 'Yes and that's happened, absolutely'. He added: 'We're not just asking nicely, we're very clear to businesses that these are their responsibilities.'

25 June 2020: Hancock theatened to close the beaches

After sun lovers flocked to the seaside on Britain's hottest day of the year, Hancock warned that he could close beaches. He told TalkRadio: 

Well, we do have that power. I am reluctant to use it because people have had a pretty tough lockdown. Everybody should be able to enjoy the sunshine. The key is to do it with respect. Stay with your households. Stay a good distance from other households.

6 May 2020: Hancock said Neil Ferguson was 'right' to resign

After Professor Neil Ferguson broke lockdown rules to see his lover last year, the Health Secretary claimed that the epidemiologist 'took the right decision to resign' from Sage. He even admitted he would back police if they chose to fine Ferguson, claiming: 'It’s a matter for the police. I think the social distancing rules are very important and people should follow them.'

5 April 2020: Hancock threatened to ban outdoor exercise

At the beginning of the first lockdown, Hancock criticised sunbathers and warned the government would ban outdoor exercise if people continue to ignore government advice. He said on Sky that those who flout the guidance were 'putting others' lives at risk and you are putting yourself in harm's way'. He told Andrew Marr that same day: 'I don't want to have to take away exercise as a reason to leave home... if too many people are not following the rules.' He added: 'If you don't want us to take the next step and ban exercise... then the message is very clear... you have to follow the rules.'

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to

Topics in this articlePolitics