September 18, 2020 at 10:32AM

Health Secretary Matt Hancock declined to rule out a second national lockdown and said the acceleration of coronavirus cases and hospital admissions across the U.K. represents a “big moment” for the country. “I have learned over the last nine months not ever to rule anything out,” Hancock told BBC radio on Friday, when asked about reports ministers are considering a lockdown in October as a virus circuit-breaker. “We want to avoid national lockdown altogether, that is the last line of defense.”

With daily Covid-19 cases running at levels last seen in May, the U.K.’s test and trace system is under strain and millions of people across the country have been placed under local restrictions to limit the spread of the disease. The resurgence poses a major dilemma for the government, which is trying to keep the transmission rate down while stimulating an economy that slumped more than any other major developed country during the pandemic.

On Friday, new restrictions on socializing were imposed on large areas of northeast England, adding to measures in place in the northwest and parts of the Midlands. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s scientific advisers have proposed a second national lockdown lasting two weeks to coincide with the October half-term in schools, the Financial Times reported.

Meanwhile, the Evening Standard newspaper reported that data due for publication Friday will show a surge in cases in London to about 25 per 100,000 from 18.8, putting the capital on track for further curbs within the next two weeks.

U.K. Refuses to Rule Out New Lockdown as Covid Surges Again, Bloomberg, Sep 18

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