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Second UK lockdown? PM says second wave inevitable, new restrictions possible

Ministers were on Friday reported to be considering a second national lockdown, after new COVID-19 cases almost doubled to 6,000 per day.

A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament's Parliamentary Recording Unit (PRU) shows Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacting during the debate on the Brexit withdrawal agreement bill in the House of Commons in London on 22 October 2019. Picture: AFP

LONDON - Britain is seeing a second wave of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday, as millions more people faced new restrictions and the government warned that another national lockdown could be imminent.

"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," said Johnson as he toured the site of a new vaccines centre in Didcot, near Oxford.

"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."

Ministers were on Friday reported to be considering a second national lockdown, after new COVID-19 cases almost doubled to 6,000 per day, hospital admissions rose and infection rates soared across parts of northern England and London.

His gloomy announcement came as government scientific advisors said the R number, representing the number of people an infected person will pass the virus to, has risen to between 1.1 and 1.4, up from 1.0 to 1.2 last week.

"This is undoubtedly concerning," said Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of applied statistics at the Open University.

"Even at growth rates within the estimated range, the number of new cases could grow to high levels quickly if the interventions are not sufficiently effective."

That rise in cases was part of a second wave that was now unstoppable, the prime minister said.

“We are now seeing a second wave coming in...It is absolutely, I’m afraid, inevitable, that we will see it in this country,” Johnson told UK media.

Asked about whether the whole of the country should brace for a new lockdown, rather than just local restrictions, he said: “I don’t want to get into a second national lockdown at all.”

But he did not rule out further national restrictions being brought in.

“When you look at what is happening, you’ve got to wonder whether we need to go further than the rule of six that we brought in on Monday,” he said, referring to the ban on gatherings of more than six people.

The United Kingdom has reported the fifth largest number of deaths from COVID-19 in the world, after the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University of Medicine.

The UK’s official number of new positive cases shot up by nearly a thousand on Friday to 4,322, the highest since 8 May, after a separate ONS model pointed to about 6,000 new cases a day in England in the week to 10 September.

That was up from modelling of 3,200 cases per day in the previous week, with the North West and London seen as hotspots.

Health Minister Matt Hancock called a second national lockdown a last resort earlier on Friday and when he was asked about it said: “I can’t give you that answer now.”