The Latest: UK Minister Defends Reimposed Restrictions

“The choice is either everybody follows the rules, or we will have to take more measures," he said. “I don’t want to see more restrictive measures, but if people don’t follow the rules that’s how the virus spreads."Hancock spoke after the government confirmed that people in England who refuse an order to self-isolate could be fined up to 10,000 pounds ($12,917). A new legal duty requires people to self-isolate if they test positive for coronavirus, or are traced as a close contact.

“I’m very worried about this second wave," Hancock said. “We’ve seen in Europe it can shoot through the roof. I can’t overemphasize enough the importance of this message: we must follow rules on social distancing. That way we can avoid an incredibly difficult lockdown until the cavalry comes with a vaccine and mass testing is on the horizon."

Under Strain

In an interview on BBC TV’s “Andrew Marr show," Hancock held out of the prospect of a vaccine by the end of the year or “more likely" in early 2021.

With infections on the rise, the U.K. test and trace system is under strain and millions of people across the country have been placed under local restrictions. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has warned further restrictions will probably be needed “soon" in the British capital.

There are reports that ministers are considering a two-week national lockdown in October as a virus “circuit-breaker." Hancock once again refused to rule out any option, but insisted country-wide measures were a “last line of defense."

Another lockdown would deliver a further blow to an economy that shrank more than any other major developed country during the pandemic.

Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government to fix the ailing test-and-trace program, which officials regard as vital to keep infection rates down and to give people confidence to return to work.

“If I was the prime minister I would be apologizing for the fact that we are in this situation with testing," he told the Marr show. Starmer urged the government to reinstate its daily coronavirus press conferences.

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