‘Circuit-break’ second national lockdown looms as UK’s Matt Hancock reveals government strategy

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - The UK government is weighing up a new ‘circuit-break’ lockdown that would restrict socialising but also try to keep the economy open.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock refused today to rule out a full-scale second national lockdown as the country faces rising number of cases and implements some local restrictions.

He outlined a new strategy of "circuit break" restrictions that focuses on combatting the close contact social settings that are the cause of most infections, while allowing workplaces and schools to stay open.

Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme he said most people in the UK were contracting the illness from friends and family rather than at work.

Hospital admissions were doubling every eight days, but he refused to say whether or not another national lockdown would be imposed next month.

When asked about the circuit-break strategy on BBC’s Today programme, he said: “We want to avoid a national lockdown. That is the last line of defence. We want to avoid that.

England tightened its lockdown rules from Monday after the daily coronavirus cases in Britain surged to around 3,000. Reuters

Social gatherings of more than six people in England have been outlawed. AFP

The rule of six restrictions do not apply to schools, workplaces or weddings, funerals or team sports. Reuters

People dine out in Soho, London. They rules do apply to gatherings in restaurants. PA via AP

People dine out in Chinatown, London. PA via AP

People sit in the sunshine in Kings Cross in London, Britain. EPA

A commuter walks across London Bridge toward the City of London. AFP

Commuters walk across London Bridge toward the City of London. AFP

People peddle boats in the sunshine at Alexandra Palace in London, Britain. EPA

A woman waits in a bus stop in Solihull, central England. AFP

A poster is seen on a door requiring to wear a mask in Tenby, Wales. Reuters

People stand on the pavement to socialise in the West End of Glasgow. AFP

People sit in the sunshine in Kings Cross in London, Britain. EPA

People sit in the sunshine in Kings Cross in London, Britain. EPA

People walk past a sign encouraging social distance in a shopping street in Solihull, central England. AFP

“I have learned not to ever rule anything out however it is not the proposal that is on the table.

“Because of extra evidence from contact trace systems we know the vast majority of transmissions are happening in social settings.

“In the local interventions, it’s about saying you should not socialise with people from outside your household, ie people you don’t live with. In work places we have Covid-secure rules and in schools we have Covid-secure rules.”

He added there was an extra challenge with universities and ensuring students follow Covid- rules off campus.

More than 10 million of the UK’s 67 million population are in some form of local lockdown.

The UK has reported the fifth largest number of coronavirus deaths, after the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University of Medicine.

Parts of Europe are gearing up for new restrictions to stop the coronavirus, after the World Health Organisation warned of "alarming rates of transmission".

France is rolling out new curbs for major cities as new cases hot about 10,000 a day.

In Spain, new restrictions are expected as Madrid officials warned that the region's healthcare system was coming under growing pressure.

Covid-19 cases started to rise again in Britain in September, with between 3,000 and 4,000 positive tests recorded daily in the last week, but that is below a high of 6,000-7,000 during the first wave of the epidemic.

Asked by Sky News about the prospect of a second national lockdown next month, Mr Hancock said that was a last resort, but that the government would do whatever it takes to tackle the virus.

"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,” Mr Hancock said.

"But what I would say this morning is the country once again needs to come together and recognise there is a serious challenge.

"The virus is accelerating. Unfortunately it isn't just cases increasing, it's also the number of people ending up in hospital increasing."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced criticism for his initial response to the outbreak and for recent attempts to ramp up testing.

Updated: September 18, 2020 12:32 PM

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