THE health secretary moved to defend a one per cent pay rise for NHS staff.

Heath secretary Matt Hancock was responding to a question about the fairness of a one per cent pay rise at a briefing at Downing Street tonight.

He said: “I pay tribute again to the incredible work those working in the NHS, especially over the last few months of the second peak.

“It’s been incredible.

“These have been challenging times. One of the challenges we face is in terms of the financial consequences of the pandemic.

“Elsewhere in the public sector there’s a pay freeze in place.

“We have proposed what we think is affordable and so people in the NHS do get a pay rise.

" I think it is fair to take into account all the considerations, the incredible hard work of those in the NHS, which means they are not part of the overall public sector pay freeze and also what’s affordable as a nation.”

Mr Hancock also defended the test and trace system following the news that the mystery person infected with the Manaus variant of coronavirus had been found.

He described the “dogged determination” of officials after being asked why it took more than a week.

He said: “I think it’s an absolute tribute to the team a test and trace and all those involved in the search.”

Officials have been hunting for the unknown individual after cases of the variant of concern were detected in the UK.

Six cases of the P1 variant, first identified in the Brazilian city of Manaus, have been found – three in Scotland and three in England.

A public appeal was made for one of those people in England to come forward after they took a test in February but left no contact details.

Earlier this week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the hunt for the infected person had been narrowed down to 379 households in the south-east of England.

Tonight, Mr Hancock said:  “Using the latest technology and with the dogged determination of our Testing and Tracing scheme, we have successfully identified the person in question.

“The best evidence is that this person stayed at home and there is no evidence of onward transmission but as a precaution we are putting more testing in in Croydon where they live to minimise the possibility of spread.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said coronavirus cases, hospital admissions and deaths are all continuing to fall.

Mr Hancock told a Downing Street news briefing that the fall in the number of deaths was accelerating – down 41% on the previous week – suggesting the vaccination programme was working.

He said that two-fifths of the adult population of the UK have now received their first dose of the vaccine.

“What this all shows is that the link from cases to hospitalisations and then to deaths that had been unbreakable before the vaccine – that link is now breaking,” he said.

“The vaccine is protecting the NHS, saving lives right across the country. The country’s plan is working.”

Mr Hancock has also announced a £79M fund for children’s mental health services ahead of pupils return to school on Monday.

He said: “This pandemic has been an anxious time for so many young people.

“Growing up is tough enough at the best of times. Home schooling, unable to meet up with friends, not having regular sport, being stuck at home.

“I know just hw many people are looking forward to going back to school. Monday will be a long awaited da for some

He added: “Three million people will benefit from mental health support teams. They will be working hard to make sure people get access to the support and care they need.