Politics

Matt Hancock warns UK could again face nationwide coronavirus lockdown measures


Matt Hancock has warned the UK a return of nationwide lockdown measures this winter remains a possibility.

The Health Secretary issued the stark warning as he said other countries were already experiencing a “second wave” and that one cannot be ruled out here.

The UK has so far resisted the reimposition of any national measures since lockdown started to ease in May.

Instead local measures have been implemented in Leicester, the North West and parts of Yorkshire.

But Mr Hancock said a national approach again cannot be ruled out, speaking as fears continue to be raised that the full return of schools next week may make curbing transmission harder.

Mr Hancock issued a sobering warning that national lockdown measures could return

Speaking to The Times, Mr Hancock said countries in others parts of the world were already experiencing a second wave, adding it was “a very serious threat”.

But he said the UK was managing to keep the number of new cases “flat” through the test and trace system and local lockdowns.

Describing the worst-case scenario, he said the UK could be battling bad flu and a growth in coronavirus as people spend more time indoors.

He continued: “Cases go up again, and we have to use very extensive local lockdowns or take further national action.

A national lockdown was brought in to stop the NHS being overwhelmed back in March

“We don’t rule that out, but we don’t want to see it.”

His comments come as local Covid-19 restrictions were eased in northern England, which will allow social gatherings between two homes from Wednesday in Bolton, Stockport, Trafford, Burnley, Hyndburn and parts of Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees.

Mr Hancock told The Times that a second wave could be “avoidable but it’s not easy”, with schools reopening next week presenting new challenges in stopping the spread of the virus.

Shops and businesses were forced to shut back in March

Leicester was put on local lockdown back in June

In an interview with ITV News, Mr Hancock said: “We’re doing a huge amount of planning to make sure that the NHS is prepared and can cope to make sure that people can have as much freedom to enjoy Christmas, to enjoy winter, as possible.”

But when asked whether there will be special rules to allow more people to visit one another over Christmas, Mr Hancock suggested it could lead to a rise in the number of people catching the virus.

“The danger of a rule like that is that it increases the spread of the disease,” he said.

“I mean, there are an awful lot of things I’d love to be able to do, but the risk of them is that we see an uptick in the disease.

“Hence, we’ve had to take decisions that you wouldn’t ever want to.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday that schools were safe to attend as he encouraged every pupil to return to the classroom.

“The evidence is overwhelming that it is in the interest of the wellbeing and the health of children, young people, pupils, to be back in school rather than missing out any more,” he said.

“So, it is the healthy, safe thing to do.”

Schools could adopt “rota systems” in local lockdown zones where pupils have a two weeks on, two weeks off calendar.

Entire year groups, meanwhile, could be sent home to isolate if just one child catches coronavirus under fresh government guidance published late on Friday.





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