Matt Hancock Has Refused To Rule Out A Second National Lockdown As A “Last Line Of Defence” In The Battle Against Coronavirus
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has failed to rule out a second national lockdown to tackle coronavirus (Sky News)
Matt Hancock has refused to rule out putting the whole of the UK back into lockdown amid a spike in coronavirus cases, saying it “isn't something that we ever take off the table”.
The health secretary called the draconian measure the “last line of defence” in the battle against Covid-19, adding the government is prepared to “do what is necessary to keep people safe”.
Earlier this week Boris Johnson said a second full-scale lockdown would have "disastrous" financial consequences for the UK.
But with a raft of local lockdowns implemented this week, putting around 10 million Brits under fresh restrictions, Mr Hancock was asked on Sky News about the possibility of a national lockdown.
"It isn't something that we ever take off the table, but it isn't something that we want to see either”, he said.
"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.”
He said: "A national lockdown is the last line of defence and we want to use local action.”
The cabinet minister was pressed again on whether such a policy would be brought in, replying: "We will do what is necessary to keep people safe.
"And the first line of defence is that everybody should follow the social distancing."
He added: "The contact tracing system, which is working very well, that is the second line of defence.
"After that, these local lockdowns. And the last line of defence is for national action.
"And, I don't want to see that. But we will do whatever is necessary to keep people safe in a very difficult pandemic."
Earlier this week the Prime Minister was asked by the Commons Liaison Committee whether the UK could afford another national lockdown.
"I don't want a second national lockdown - I think it would be completely wrong for this country and we are going to do everything in our power to prevent it”, he said.
"And can we afford it? I very much doubt that the financial consequences would be anything but disastrous, but we have to make sure that we defeat the disease by the means that we have set out.
"So when I see people arguing against the rule of six or saying that the government is coming in too hard on individual liberties and so on - I totally understand that and I sympathise with that, but we must, must defeat this disease."
It comes after the Financial Times reported this morning that the UK's top scientists proposed a two-week national lockdown in October to stem the current spike in coronavirus cases.
Experts on the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies and the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling suggested having it coincide with half-term to create minimal disruption to schools.
In response to the report, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: "Labour warned months ago that unless the government spent the summer fixing the testing regime then we would face a bleak winter.
"The government ignored that advice, the testing regime is collapsing and so it is not surprising national restrictions are back on the table.
"The Conservatives' incompetence is holding Britain back and damaging the national effort to stop the spread of this virus."