Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Friday that the coronavirus was once again “accelerating” in Britain and did not rule out the possibility of another nationwide lockdown if cases continue to climb. In an interview with Sky News, Hancock said hospitalization rates were increasing along with confirmed cases of the virus, and called for unity to keep the risk of transmission down.
Asked repeatedly about how close the country was to another full-scale lockdown, Hancock said that a “national lockdown is the last line of defense,” but one that he could not rule out despite a desire to avoid draconian measures. “We’ll do what is necessary to keep people safe,” he said.
Britain has imposed restrictions in high-risk areas in recent weeks, taking a targeted approach to slowing the spread of the virus where new outbreaks appear. More than 30 areas are under local restrictions, according to British media reports, with an estimated 10 million people already under lockdown and unable to see family or friends. Nationally, gatherings of more than six people have been banned as of this week in an effort to contain the virus’s resurgence.
Britain has the highest covid-19 death toll in Europe with more than 41,000 lives lost to the virus, despite a nationwide lockdown that started at the end of March and began easing in May. Critics have faulted the government, however, for moving too slowly to implement restrictions and for other deficiencies in the pandemic response. Coronavirus testing remains plagued by problems, despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s promise to offer a “world beating” service.
A recent investigation by national radio station LBC revealed that there were no tests available in any of England’s top 10 virus hot spots, while many reported that they needed to drive long distances to be tested.