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Support and childcare bubbles will not be cancelled in any tightening up of lockdown, Matt Hancock confirmed tonight.

The Health Secretary told the Mirror he “can rule out” removing the measures, which have become a lifeline for many families since they first launched last June.

It came after both Mr Hancock and Boris Johnson ’s spokesman refused to rule out cancelling bubbles.

Speaking at the No10 press conference, Mr Hancock said: “I can rule out removing the bubbles that we have in place.

“The childcare bubbles, the support bubbles are very important and we’re going to keep them.

“I know how important they are to people and they’re an important part of the system we’ve got to support people while also having these tough measures that are necessary.”

Support bubbles allow a single-adult household to join permanently with a second household of any size, and act as though they live together.

(Image: Getty Images)

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They also allow a couple who have a child under one to join with a household of any size.

Childcare bubbles allow a similar arrangement between one household and another that has a child under 14.

The bubbles did not exist in the first lockdown last March and had been raised as one thing that could have been removed if lockdown is tightened.

But Mr Hancock said: “The bubbles policy will stay.”

He added: “The bubbles are there for individual specific people. If you’ve bubbled with somebody, that is the person you’ve bubbled with.

“You cannot keep moving bubbles – that is very important.”

It comes after Boris Johnson threatened tighter coronavirus curbs – but said he didn't want to introduce them.

Keir Starmer said new measures may be needed within 24 hours and claimed the Prime Minister's dithering had “cost lives”.

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Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty warned strict lockdown restrictions will “probably” last until the spring, amid mounting concern in No10 over people's “false confidence" and “complacency” as the vaccine is rolled out.

Thousands of people were inoculated as seven mass vaccination centres opened.

But the PM warned the jabs did not mean people could ignore social distancing rules.

Speaking as he visited the mass vaccination centre at Bristol City's Ashton Gate football ground, Mr Johnson said: We're going to keep the rules under constant review. Where we have to tighten them, we will. We have rules in place already which, if they are properly followed, we believe can make a huge, huge difference.”

It's rumoured tighter curbs could include wearing masks outside, closing places of worship and shutting nurseries.

It's thought No10 is also concerned that a rule allowing two people from different households to exercise is being "abused".

But urging people to follow existing restrictions, the PM said it was “far, far better for people to obey the rules that we have than simply to promulgate new rules”.