Second wave of coronavirus is hitting UK, Boris Johnson says

19 September 2020, 07:18

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A second wave of coronavirus cases is hitting the UK and was always "inevitable", Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

The UK leader conceded to reporters that the UK was seeing a second wave of Covid-19 "coming in" as he visited a construction site on the Harwell Science and Innovations campus near Didcot, Oxfordshire.

Mr Johnson said: "There's no question, as I've said for several weeks now, that we could expect and we are now seeing a second wave coming in.

"We've seen it in France, we've seen it in Spain, across Europe it's been absolutely, I'm afraid, inevitable that we would see it in this country."

It comes as the UK's transmission rate rose to between 1.1 and 1.4 this week following a significant rise in Covid-19 infections across the country.

The prime minister was visiting the site of the new Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre which is currently being built to manufacture vaccines for Covid-19 and is set to open next summer.

Read more: UK's coronavirus transmission rate rises to between 1.1 and 1.4

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Boris Johnson said the UK was seeing a second wave of coronavirus coming in
Boris Johnson said the UK was seeing a second wave of coronavirus coming in. Picture: PA

Mr Johnson said a second lockdown was the "last thing anybody wants" but that the current measures would need to be kept "under review".

"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," he told broadcasters in Oxfordshire.

"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.

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"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."

The prime minister said the government was considering whether it should to "go further" than the current national restrictions that were put in place this week.

Asked about the possibility of a two-week October half-term in order to bring in a short lockdown, Mr Johnson told reporters: "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' that we have brought in on Monday, so 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.

"What I will say is, as we go forward, we will be explaining in great detail to people what the scientific background is, what the epidemiology is saying and, really, how we propose to do it."

Asked if his administration had eased lockdown too quickly, Mr Johnson suggested discipline in adhering to social distancing restrictions had slipped.

He said: "If you look at what's happened over the last few months, I think the British people have done a amazing job.

"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.

"It is very difficult to maintain that kind of discipline for a long time and what you've seen is the disease starting to spread again among young people and that's where it really started to kick off in France and Spain in those age groups and we are now seeing that here in this country.

"And, alas, now it is progressing and you're seeing an increase in incidents in the 80-plus group as well, so that's why we took the measures we did on Monday, action on the 'rule of six', as the disease progresses.

"If that isn't going to work then of course we are going to have to take further measures, but be in no doubt that we will want to be explaining what we are doing, taking people with us as we go and what I don't want to do is go into a second national lockdown of the kind we had in March, April - I don't want to do that again."

When asked whether ministers were considering a short "firebreak" lockdown, the PM said: "We're watching it the whole time and as soon as we've got more to say, we'll be saying it."

He added that any rule changes would be fully explained to the public, saying: "If and when we have to go forward with other local or national measures or whatever, we will of course be explaining very clearly to everybody how we see it."

Mr Johnson reiterated that people should keep up with wearing a face covering and washing their hands, while only those with Covid-like symptoms should go for a test.

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