THE Prime Minister has tonight said a second wave of coronavirus is "inevitable" amid surging cases – and failed to rule out another national lockdown, just hours after a Nightingale hospital was put on red alert.
Boris Johnson's warning comes as Birmingham's Covid hospital was put on standby to reopen within 48 hours.
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And local lockdowns have spread even further with Lancashire, West Yorkshire, Wolverhampton and Merseyside given tighter restrictions – including a curfew on pubs and restaurants and a ban on socialising outside of households.
The dramatic move was announced as Britain's daily infections hit a four-month high of 4,322, with figures showing the outbreak has nearly doubled in size in a week and the R-rate is potentially as high as 1.4.
It comes as…
- Mr Hancock said the number of people going into hospital with the virus is doubling every eight days – and he feared more people would die
- Lancashire, Merseyside, Wolverhampton and West Yorkshire have been given new local lockdown measures – to be in force from Tuesday.
- The UK R-rate hit 1.4 and scores of coronavirus hotspots across the country have emerged in recent weeks.
- Coronavirus cases rose by 3,395 with 21 deaths recorded yesterday
- A new 90-minute coronavirus test is 94 per cent accurate, experts have revealed
- Yesterday the head of NHS Test & Trace admitted that calls about coronavirus tests were up to FOUR times higher than the current testing capacity
Speaking in Oxfordshire, the PM said: “On Monday we brought in the measures that we did, the ‘rule of six’, to really try and restrict what people are doing and to bring in a new buffer – and to make it absolutely clear, the ‘rule of six’: indoors six maximum, six outdoors maximum.
“But the crucial thing is at the same time to observe the basic rules on social distancing – hands, face, space – that is what everybody has got to do if we want to continue to beat this thing.
“But as we look at this particular curve and what is happening now, clearly we are going to keep everything under review. I don’t want to get into a second national lockdown at all, it is the last thing anybody wants.
“I don’t want to go into bigger lockdown measures at all, we want to keep schools open and it is fantastic the schools have gone back in the way they have.
"We want to keep the economy open as far as we possibly can, we want to keep businesses going.
“The only way we can do that is obviously if people follow the guidance.”
And he called a surge in the UK's cases the 'second wave' of the virus.
"Obviously, we’re looking very carefully at the spread of the pandemic as it evolves over the last few days and there’s no question, as I’ve said for several weeks now, that we could expect (and) are now seeing a second wave coming in," he said.
“We are seeing it in France, in Spain, across Europe – it has been absolutely, I’m afraid, inevitable we were going to see it in this country.”
The PM has also suggested the public – who were until this month being encouraged to return to work and eat out to help the economy – may have dropped their guard.
Asked if the Government had eased lockdown too quickly, he said: "They got that peak under control, they brought it right down, they brought the number of infections right down by discipline and everybody adjusting our behaviours and the way we go about our lives – hands, face, space.
"And I think probably, truth to tell, what's happened here and what alas has happened in so many other countries is that people find it difficult to keep this up."
The Government is reported to be looking at a possible "circuit breaker" nationwide lockdown as soon as next week, which could last for a fortnight.
A member of the Government's Sage Committee Professor Andrew Hayward from UCL told Times Radio a "circuit break" lockdown is needed within days.
What could another lockdown look like?
The PM tonight failed to rule out another national lockdown.
However, ministers are keen to avoid the strict measures endured by the country when the pandemic first arriced in the UK.
The idea that No10 want to avoid an "extended" lockdown suggests they may be willing to bring in a temporary measure of days or weeks to try and put the brakes on instead.
This would likely include bans on socialising with other households, and telling people not to use public transport unless it was essential.
And it may include a curfew on pubs and restaurants too, forcing them to shut at 10pm – like is the case in other parts of the country under local lockdown at the moment.
It's unlikely schools and workplaces would close at this point.
However, the Government has not ruled out a drastic shutdown of the economy like what took place back in March.
Professor Hayward said: "One of the measures is this idea of a circuit break, which is really instead of waiting until things have really got out of control and you end up having to have a long lockdown.
"Instead of that, trying to have a shorter period when you try and knock down transmission.
"I wouldn't necessarily expect a circuit break to be the end of it, if you see what I mean. I think this might be something that one might need to plan for rounds of those over time."
There are also reports Professor Chris Whitty wants a second two-week national lockdown.
This evening, Mr Johnson said of the claims: “What I can certainly say about parents and schools is we want to keep the schools open, that is going to happen.
“We want to try and keep all parts of the economy open as far as we possibly can – I don’t think anybody wants to go into a second lockdown but clearly when you look at what is happening, you have got to wonder whether we need to go further than the ‘rule of six’.
"We will be looking at the local lockdowns we have got in large parts of the country now, looking at what we can do to intensify things that help bring the rate of infection down there, but also looking at other measures as well."
Data published by the Office for National Statistics today shows that there has been 6,000 new daily Covid infections from September 4 to September 10.
That's double last week it was estimated that 3,200 a day were being infected by the virus.
Around 12 million people in the UK now have to follow tough restrictions.
As well as the new lockdowns, other areas of Lancashire, including Blackburn with Darwen, Pendle and Preston had already been placed under local lockdown rules.
Announcing the new measures, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said today: "We are seeing cases of coronavirus rise fast in Lancashire, Merseyside, West Yorkshire, Warrington, Halton and Wolverhampton.
"Local leaders in these areas have asked for stronger restrictions to be put in place to protect local people, and we are acting decisively to support them.
“I know these restrictions will make every-day life harder for many, but I know that residents will work together and respect the rules so we can reduce rates of transmission."
The UK is facing a testing fiasco as many face huge queues at centres.
Some 240,000 people are awaiting the results of tests in the UK.
As cases rise, it was revealed this week that no tests were available in 46 out of 48 of the nation’s worst Covid hotspots.
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