Health Secretary Matt Hancock warns of extensive lockdowns in the event of second wave of coronavirus in the UK
Nationwide restrictions cannot be ruled out should England see a spike in coronavirus cases this winter, the Health Secretary has warned.
Matt Hancock also hinted that restrictions may not be eased over Christmas to avoid an “uptick” in the number of Covid-19 cases.
Speaking to The Times, Mr Hancock said countries in other 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.
“We don’t rule that out, but we don’t want to see it.”
BBC’s Newsnight reported that a ‘reasonable worst-case planning assumption’ presented to the Government warned there could be up to 81,000 excess deaths directly attributed to Covid-19 between July and next March.
The broadcaster said the scenario was laid out in a document signed off by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) for the Cabinet Office at the end of July.
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 ITV News: “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 added: “The danger of a rule like that is that it increases the spread of the disease.
“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.”