Matt Hancock admits second national lockdown is possible
More than 10 million people are living under local lockdowns
A nationwide lockdown could be reintroduced across the UK but only as a "last line of defence," health secretary Matt Hancock said Friday morning.
Some 11 million people currently live in tightened coronavirus restrictions at a local level, including Birmingham, Greater Manchester, Leicester and Lanarkshire. The North East was most recently locked down and Lancashire will be added too, with the exception of Blackpool.
The health secretary would not say how far away the UK is from a national lockdown but admitted: "The last line of defence is full national action, and I don't want to see that but we will do what is necessary to keep people safe in a very difficult pandemic."
With 17 per cent of the UK's 65 million population already in some form of lockdown, the country is well along that way.
Hancock told Sky News: "The first line of defence is the that everybody should follow social distancing ... the contact tracing system, which is working very well, that is the second line of defence. After that, these local lockdowns.
"It isn't something that we ever take off the table, but it isn't something that we want to see either. It is the last line of defence. The country once again needs to come together and recognise there is a serious challenge, that the virus is accelerating.
"Unfortunately, it isn't just cases increasing, it's also the number of people ending up in hospital increasing.
"A national lockdown is the last line of defence and we want to use local action. I want to avoid a national lockdown."
“The last line of defence is full national action.”
Health Secretary @MattHancock says he “does not want to see” a second national lockdown but the government will do what is necessary to “keep people safe”.#KayBurley: https://t.co/Opc8Z4tNib pic.twitter.com/t1cLYEbVRq
— Sky News (@SkyNews) September 18, 2020
It's been reported UK scientists have pressed for a blanket two-week lockdown to coincide with October half-term and minimise the impact on school-age education.
Throughout his series of broadcast interviews, the health secretary would not confirm if the proposals were being actively considered but did insist measures like those seen in March weren't on the table either.
The UK's first lockdown began on March 23 and restrictions have gradually released since, often at the behest of government advertising campaigns encouraging trips to the pub, restaurants and offices.
Without an effective test and trace system, the way out looks bleak.