Lockdown restrictions in England will remain in place for as “long as they are necessary”, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said, as he suggested there are no current plans to tighten existing rules.

Mr Hancock urged people not to “take the mickey” out of the restrictions, but said it was “impossible to know” when they could be eased.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Hancock said: “We will keep the restrictions in place not a moment longer than they are necessary, but we will keep them in place as long as they are necessary.

“These measures that we have got in place that we hope to be able to lift – and we should be able to lift, when we have been able to protect through vaccination those who are vulnerable – right now, the vaccination is not in a position to do that.”

Mr Hancock said the current rules were always “under review” but “what really matters now is the degree to which everybody follows the existing rules.”

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, he added: “Of course you can always make changes at the margin, but we brought in a very significant restriction, the stay at home measures…

"It is possible then to make further restrictions, but what I’d say is that the most important thing is compliance with the existing measures, that’s the thing that is going to make the difference.”

Asked if he would specifically change the rule on people meeting one other person outside, he said: “We always keep these things under review, but you’ve got to balance the downsides.”

He said the rule on exercising with one other person “is clear”, but he was “very reluctant to remove this rule” because for some people, such as those living alone, it is an “absolute lifeline”.

Mr Hancock added that when two people meet for socially distanced exercise, the “likelihood of spread from people who are following that rule is very, very small”.

But he said some were clearly “stretching that rule”, adding: “People should not take the mickey out of the rules and they shouldn’t stretch the rules, people should respect the rules, because they’re there for a reason and that’s to keep everybody safe.”

Asked if the UK has now hit the peak of this wave, as some data may suggest, Mr Hancock said: “Well, I want it to be.

“But again, that comes down to the behaviour of everyone.

“Together we can make this the peak if enough people follow the rules, which are incredibly clear.”

Pressed again on if this was the peak, he said: “Well we don’t know, we published the data every day. I hope that it is.”

Mr Hancock said sending patients to hotels was a further back-up plan for some step-down patients, but it was not something the Government were actively putting in place.

He said the NHS was ready to vaccinate people 24 hours a day, seven days a week if necessary, adding: “We’re absolutely up for doing that if it helps to speed up the vaccination programme.

“I can’t see that being the major factor, because most people want to get vaccinated in the daytime, and also most people who are doing the vaccinations want to give them in the daytime, but there may be circumstances in which that would help.

“And we’re absolutely up for that.”

Mr Hancock said the Government currently had as much supply of vaccines as “we were expecting”, and manufacturing by Pfizer and AstraZeneca is on track.

NHS officials have stressed that vaccines are currently being sent to those sites that can vaccinate as many people as possible, with more sites being sent jabs as the supply increases.

The NHS has also denied a report in the Telegraph that suggested the vaccine rollout was being paused in some areas to allow other parts of the country to catch up.

Earlier, Dr Daisy Fancourt, from University College London’s Institute of Epidemiology and Health, who has carried out a study on lockdown compliance, said people were following the rules in the vast majority of cases.

She told BBC Breakfast: “We found that compliance has been improving month on month, and week on week, and actually it’s now back to the same levels that it was last May, so whilst we hear the stories of rule-breakers, actually the majority of the population are really playing their part at the moment."

She said rule flouting such as holding house parties was only being done by a very tiny percentage of people, with more looking to bend the rules by seeking for loopholes, or slightly pushing the boundaries.

Dr Fancourt said the rule that people are breaking most is meeting up with more people than they are allowed to outdoors.

She added: “I think people are thinking they’ve got that added protection from being outside with increased air and ventilation, which of course is true to a certain extent, but actually I think now we’re looking at this new virus, we’ve got to be particularly cautious on this.

“We’re finding this across all age groups, so it’s not like there’s one particular group that are most likely to break this rule, but I think it’s one that people, if they’re looking to improve their own behaviours at the moment, it’s a really good one to try and tighten up on.”