LONDON • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he did not want another national lockdown but that new restrictions may be needed because the country was facing an "inevitable" second wave of Covid-19.
His comment came as European countries from Denmark to Spain announced new restrictions to curb surging coronavirus infections in some of their largest cities.
Ministers were reported to be considering a second national lockdown, after new Covid-19 cases almost doubled to 6,000 per day, hospital admissions rose and infection rates soared across parts of northern England and London.
That rise in cases was part of a second wave that was now unstoppable, Mr Johnson said.
"We are now seeing a second wave coming in... It is absolutely, I'm afraid, inevitable, that we will see it in this country," he told UK media.
Asked if the whole country should brace itself for a new lockdown rather than just local restrictions, he said: "I don't want to get into a second national lockdown at all."
But he did not rule out further national restrictions being brought in.
The UK has reported the fifth largest number of Covid-19 deaths in the world, after the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University of Medicine.
The UK's official number of new positive cases rose by nearly 1,000 on Friday to 4,322, the highest since May 8, after an Office for National Statistics model pointed to about 6,000 new cases a day in England in the week to Sept 10.
That was up from modelling of 3,200 cases per day in the previous week, with the North West and London seen as hot spots.
The UK said its reproduction "R" number of infections has risen to a range of 1.1-1.4 from the previous week's 1.0-1.2.
"We're seeing clear signs this virus is now spreading widely across all age groups and I am particularly worried by the increase in rates of admission to hospital and intensive care among older people," said Prof Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England.
WARNING OF WORSE THINGS
We're seeing clear signs this virus is now spreading widely across all age groups and I am particularly worried by the increase in rates of admission to hospital and intensive care among older people... This could be a warning of far worse things to come.
PROFESSOR YVONNE DOYLE, medical director at Public Health England.
"This could be a warning of far worse things to come."
More than 10 million people in the UK are already in local lockdown.
Despite the grim outlook, thousands of people yesterday descended on central London to protest against mass coronavirus vaccinations.
Worldwide, infections have exceeded 30.5 million cases and deaths have topped 950,000.
Infections have climbed steadily across most of Europe over the last two months. Intensive care admissions and deaths have also begun to tick up, especially in Spain and France.
In Denmark, where the 454 new infections on Friday was close to a record of 473 in April, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said the limit on public gatherings would be lowered to 50 people from 100 and ordered bars and restaurants to close early.
Iceland ordered entertainment venues and pubs in the capital area to close for four days starting on Friday until tomorrow, while in Ireland, indoor restaurant dining and indoor events were banned in Dublin after a surge in cases in recent days.
In Greece, the committee of health experts recommended extra curbs on public gatherings, the suspension of cultural events for 14 days and other measures which "could be decided today... and go into force on Monday", said Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.