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Matt Hancock has said the Government will “do what is necessary” over reports the UK could be hit by a national lockdown.

The Health Secretary said on Friday that a national lockdown is “the last line of defence” but refused to rule out the drastic step in tackling the rising rates of coronavirus.

Mr Hancock indicated that a two-week “circuit-breaker” shutdown is among options that will be considered if the surge in Covid-19 cases becomes “more out of control”. Measures could include asking hospitality businesses to shut, and curfews on opening hours for some pubs and restaurants.

It comes amid reports that UK scientists have proposed for measures to come into force for two weeks in October, to coincide with half-term and avoid disruption to schools.

During the media round on Friday morning, Mr Hancock said bringing back extensive restrictions like those imposed in March is “not the proposal that is on the table”, but said nothing had been ruled out.

Asked about the possibility of a two-week national lockdown, Mr Hancock told Sky News: “What I would say is that we really do need to come together to tackle this. The virus is clearly accelerating across the country.

“We have got to take the necessary action to keep people safe.”

London coronavirus cases surge threatens to see curfew and local lockdown

Pressed again by presenter Kay Burley whether a two-week national lockdown was on the cards, he said: “We will do what is necessary to keep people safe. The last line of defence is for national action and I don’t want to see that but we will do whatever is necessary to keep people safe in a very difficult pandemic.”

Ms Burley asked a third time if the national lockdown was being considered. Mr Hancock responded: “It isn’t something that we never take off the table, but it isn’t something that we want to see either. It is the last line of defence.

“But the country once again needs to come together and recognise there is a serious challenge… that the virus is accelerating.

“Unfortunately, it isn’t just cases increasing, it’s also the number of people ending up in hospital increasing.”

Asked another time how close the nation is to another lockdown, Mr Hancock said he wanted to avoid that move, but said: “We keep all of these things under review.”

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Hancock later said a lockdown affecting schools and business “was not the proposal that’s on the table”. But he added: “I have learned over the last nine months not ever to rule anything out.”

In another interview on BBC Breakfast, he said it was “absolutely critical” that people continued to follow the basic rules to avoid a lockdown.

“We have seen an acceleration in the number of cases over the last couple of weeks and we’ve also sadly seen that the number of people hospitalised with coronavirus is doubling about every eight days, so we do need to take action,” he said.

“It is absolutely critical that people follow these rules, follow the rule of six, follow local restrictions if you have them in your area. If we do all these things then we can avoid having to take serious further measures.”

But he added: “We’re watching vigilantly but we can see the number of cases accelerating and we’re prepared to do what it takes both to protect lives and to protect livelihoods.”

The UK went into a first national lockdown on March 23 with measures gradually easing over the following five months.

Mr Hancock also defended the NHS Test and Trace system after it was condemned as “barely functional”.

He said: “The contact tracing system, which is working very well, that is the second line of defence. After that, these local lockdowns and the last line of defence is for national action.

“And, I don’t want to see that. But we will do whatever is necessary to keep people safe in a very difficult pandemic.”

On Covid tests, the Health Secretary said: “This week over 200,000 a day are being done.”

Meanwhile, at least 10 million Brits are under local lockdowns as of today with new restrictions coming into force in the North East.