LONDON (Reuters) – Britain was considering imposing a second nationwide lockdown on Friday, after new cases of COVID-19 nearly doubled to 6,000 per day, hospital admissions rose and rates of infection has skyrocketed in parts of northern England and London.
The UK has reported the fifth highest number of COVID-19 deaths worldwide, after the US, Brazil, India and Mexico, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University of Medicine .
When asked if a second nationwide lockdown was planned, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said hospital admissions doubled every eight days, but a crucial estimate modeled by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) would be essential.
His model showed around 6,000 new cases per day in England in the week to September 10, up from 3,200 cases per day the week before, with the North West and London considered hot spots.
“There is evidence of higher infection rates in the North West and London,” the ONS said.
As of the release of these figures, Britain has imposed new COVID regulations in the North West, Midlands and West Yorkshire from Tuesday. Countries around the world where COVID-19 cases are on the rise are similarly tightening the rules, and Israel announced a second nationwide lockdown on Friday.
Asked by Sky News about the prospect of a second nationwide lockdown next month, Hancock said a lockdown was a last resort, but the government would do whatever it takes to tackle the virus.
“The number of people hospitalized is doubling every week or so… we’ll do whatever it takes to keep people safe,” Hancock said. “We are keeping these things under review.”
Asked about a second lockdown, he replied, “I can’t give you that answer now. “
COVID-19 cases started to rise again in Britain in September, with between 3,000 and 4,000 positive tests recorded daily last week. It is still far behind France, which records more than 10,000 new cases per day.
Britain recorded 21 deaths from the disease on Thursday, bringing the total by government accounting to 41,705. Key statistics on the prevalence of the virus are due later on Friday.
More than 10 million people in the UK are already in local lockdown.
“COVID-19 infection rates have increased in most areas, especially in the North West and London,” the ONS said. “It is likely that infection rates in all other regions have increased as well, with the exception of the South West and West Midlands.”
The ONS said there had been clear evidence of an increase in the number of people testing positive aged 2 to 11, 17 to 24 and 25 to 34.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been criticized by opposition politicians for his initial response to the outbreak and the government has struggled to ensure sufficient testing in recent weeks.
Asked by LBC Radio about why the testing system was such a “mess”, Hancock said Dido Harding, who is in charge of the system, had done an “extraordinary job”.