LONDON: The UK's health minister said on Friday (Sep 18) that the novel coronavirus was accelerating across the country with hospital admissions doubling every eight days, but refused to say whether or not another national lockdown would be imposed next month.
Asked repeatedly by Sky News about the prospect of a second national lockdown next month, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that a lockdown was a last resort but that the government would do whatever it takes to tackle the virus.
"The number of people in hospital is doubling every eight days or so ... we will do what it takes to keep people safe," Hancock said. "We keep these things under review."
Asked about a second lockdown, he said: "I can't give you that answer now."
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been criticised by opposition politicians for his initial response to the outbreak and the government has struggled to ensure sufficient testing in recent weeks.
In March, the UK ordered a three-week lockdown to tackle the spread of COVID-19, shutting "non-essential" shops and services, and banning gatherings of more than two people. The lockdown was first eased on Jun 1.
COVID-19 cases started to rise again in September, with 18,371 people testing positive in England in the week to Sep 19 - up 75 per cent on the previous week.
On Thursday, the UK recorded 21 deaths from the disease, taking the total under the government's accounting method to 41,705.
New rules were also imposed on Monday to limit socialising to groups of six people or fewer.