The UK's Health Secretary has not ruled out a second national lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Responding to reports that ministers are considering further national measures, even for just a two-week period, such as imposing a curfew on bars and restaurants, Matt Hancock said a national lockdown was the “last line of defence".
However, the “great hope” is that people will heed current advice to help manage a “very serious” situation, he said.
He said the current approach was “targeted interventions” but couldn't rule out a national lockdown in the future.
An announcement on further local restrictions across Lancashire is expected today, with the "majority" of Lancashire expected to see tighter measures introduced.
It comes as the government has seen huge criticism from ministers over the NHS Test and Trace system as the demand for tests soars against capacity, with four times the number of people trying to book a test as the number of tests available.
Experts have said that without effective testing and tracing, it will be much harder to control the spread of the virus and pinpoint larger outbreaks.
The latest data showed that hospital admissions are now doubling every eight days, Mr Hancock told BBC Breakfast, amid warnings that deaths will also rise in the coming weeks.
He said it was “absolutely critical” that people followed the rule of having no more than six people at a gathering, while those living under local restrictions should ensure they are sticking to advice.
“Also, if people have tested positive, or if people have been in close contact with somebody who tests positive, that they self-isolate,” he said.
“And if we do all these things, then we can avoid having to take serious further measures.”
He added: “As we saw in the spring, it is the thing that we can do to keep people safe if that’s needed.
“So 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, and of course, both are so important.
“We want to avoid a national lockdown but we’re prepared to do it, if we need to.”
Mr Hancock said the “big hope” is that people will come together “and get this under control, but it is a very serious situation.”
Asked on Sky News about the possibility of a two-week “circuit break” imposition of national restrictions, Mr Hancock said the Government wanted to use “local action”.
And he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We want to avoid national lockdown altogether.
“I have learned over the last nine months not ever to rule anything out.
“However, it is not the proposal that’s on the table.”
You can follow updates on further restrictions across Lancashire here.