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UPDATE 2-UK ponders second COVID-19 lockdown as outbreak accelerates

Mon, 21st Sep 2020 07:28

* Johnson ponders second lockdown

* Trend going in the wrong direction - Whitty

* Shapps: UK at very critical moment
(Recasts and adds details)

By Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton

LONDON, Sept 21 (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris
Johnson was on Monday pondering a second national lockdown as an
accelerating coronavirus outbreak threatened to destroy any
shoots of economic recovery and send millions back into
isolation.

The United Kingdom already has the biggest official COVID-19
death toll in Europe - and the fifth largest in the world -
while it is borrowing record amounts in an attempt to pump
emergency money through the damaged economy.

But new COVID-19 cases are rising by at least 6,000 per day
in Britain, according to week-old data, hospital admissions are
doubling every eight days, and the testing system is buckling.

"The trend in the UK is heading in the wrong direction and
we are at a critical point in the pandemic," Chris Whitty, the
government's chief medical officer, will say at a briefing at
1000 GMT on Monday.

"We are looking at the data to see how to manage the spread
of the virus ahead of a very challenging winter period," Whitty
will say alongside Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific
adviser.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the United Kingdom was
at a critical juncture though any new lockdown would have to be
balanced with schools and businesses allowed to stay open so
that the country could pay for the crisis.

"We're certainly at a very critical moment this morning,"
Shapps told Sky. "It is clear that we are just a few weeks
behind what we're seeing elsewhere in Europe."

"It is very important that we do everything we can to sort
of bear down on this," Shapps said. "We'll hear from others
including the prime minister on the proposed next steps."

The official UK death toll stands at 41,777 people.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton; Editing by
Angus MacSwan)

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