Matt Hancock announcement: What time is the health secretary's speech today, Friday, March 5?

MATT HANCOCK led another press conference from Downing Street this evening.

The health secretary addressed the nation amid backlash over over a proposed 1% pay rise for NHS workers.

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What did Matt Hancock announce?

Mr Hancock started off by discussing the falling numbers of Covid cases across England.

He also spoke about the Brazil variant and the government's mental health pledge.

As expected, he was asked his opinion about the NHS pay-rise that has left union chiefs on the brink of a strike.

The health secretary insisted the "vaccine programme is working" and claimed the country is "heading in the right direction."

He confirmed the government will put forward £79million to ensure young people have access to mental health services.

And the health secretary spoke of his relief that the mystery traveller with the Brazil Covid variant has been found.

Mr Hancock said said the incident team at Public Health England do not believe there was any further transmission.

But he confirmed that surge testing has been deployed in London.

He said: "Using the latest technology and with the dogged determination of our testing scheme, we have identified the person in question."

The health secretary was then quizzed about NHS staff receiving just a 1% pay rise next year.

He said: "I pay tribute to the incredible work of all those who work in the NHS, especially over the last few months during the second peak.

"As I said in my opening remarks, these have been challenging times and one of the challenges we face as a country, is the financial conswquences of the pandemic.

"Elsewhere in the public sector, there's a pay freeze in place and we have put forward what we think is affordable."

When asked whether he thought they deserved more, hesaid: "I am very pleased that the NHS staff have been carved out of the pay freeze and we do have issues of affordability because of the consequences of the pandemic on the public finances.

"We have to take those into account, but we have been able to carve out the NHS from the pay freeze that applies to everybody else in the public sector."

As part of measures to tighten the belt, pay rises across the public sector are to be paused from April.

But NHS staff and the lowest paid will get a small, below-inflation rise.

The Department of Health said in its submission to the annual pay review bodies that "the Government will need to take into account the challenging fiscal and economic context" with pay awards.

Thousands have signed online petitions urging ministers to look again.

Militant unions today said they would consider striking over the proposed plans.

This morning the health minister Nadine Dorries sparked fury by insisting the offer of a 1% pay rises for NHS nurses is the "most we can afford" despite their work on the Covid frontline.

And she urged nurses to "stick with us" despite the low offer – which amounts to just £3.50 a week – because of their love of the job.

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