British Health Secretary Matt Hancock has described a potential new wave of the COVID-19 as a “very serious threat”, which he said could lead to another nationwide lockdown.
In an interview with The Times on Friday, he said that a second wave is “clearly visible in other parts of the world” but that in the UK, the government has thus far managed “to keep the number of new cases flat through a combination of test and trace and local lockdowns”.
Hancock also warned that a surge in COVID-19 cases that may come amid an outbreak of seasonal flu would complicate the situation.
“This is the reasonable worst-case scenario, that we have a bad flu and a growth in coronavirus as people spend more time indoors. Cases go up again, and we have to use very extensive local lockdowns or take further national action. We don’t rule that out but we don’t want to see it”, the health secretary pointed out.
The remarks followed the UK government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance cautioning in mid-July that there was a risk that “national measures” might be needed in the event of a resurgence of the virus in the country.
He warned that the upcoming winter is ”going to be a very complex time” due to the seasonal flu, adding, “I think that there’s a very high likelihood that come winter, we will see an increase in [coronavirus] cases”.
UK Scientists Warn of More Serious Second Wave
The warning followed a report by the British Academy of Medical Sciences suggesting that the new wave of COVID-19 expected this winter would be even more deadly than the first one and could result in about 120,000 new fatal cases if the government fails to take urgent measures to tackle the outbreak.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, however, apparently tried to downplay the likelihood of another nationwide lockdown, describing the step as a “nuclear deterrent” in last month’s interview with The Sunday Telegraph.
"I can't abandon that tool any more than I would abandon a nuclear deterrent. But it is like a nuclear deterrent, I certainly don't want to use it”, Johnson said, adding that he does not think that Britain "will be in that position again".
According to the prime minister, there will be a "significant return to normality" in the country by Christmas.
The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the UK currently stands at 330,372, with 41,477 fatalities, according to the World Health Organisation’s latest situation report.