Covid-19: Fresh restrictions for the North West, West Yorkshire and the Midlands

Liverpool Waterfront
Liverpool Waterfront

Large parts of England's North West, West Yorkshire and the Midlands face tough new restrictions as the Health Secretary refused to rule out a national lockdown.

Ministers announced a tightening of rules in response to "major increases" in Covid-19 cases, with Merseyside, Warrington, Halton and Lancashire (excluding Blackpool and Greater Manchester) escalated to "areas of intervention".

From Tuesday, the following restrictions will be enforced in these places:

– Residents must not socialise with other people outside of their own households or support bubble in private homes and gardens.

– Restaurants, pubs and bars will be restricted to table service only, while all leisure and entertainment venues including restaurants, pubs and cinemas must close between 10pm and 5am.

Residents are also advised to avoid public transport unless it is essential, as well as professional or amateur sporting events.

Weekly rate of new Covid-19 cases in the UK
(PA Graphics)

The new rules do not apply to Bolton or Greater Manchester, where separate restrictions are already in place.

Meanwhile, in the Midlands, people in Oadby and Wigston will be banned from socialising with others outside of their own households or support bubble in private homes and gardens from Tuesday.

And in West Yorkshire, people in all parts of Bradford, Kirklees and Calderdale will be subject to the same ban on socialising.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "We are seeing cases of coronavirus rise fast in Lancashire, Merseyside, West Yorkshire, Warrington, Halton and Wolverhampton.

"Local leaders in these areas have asked for stronger restrictions to be put in place to protect local people, and we are acting decisively to support them.

"I know these restrictions will make everyday life harder for many, but I know that residents will work together and respect the rules so we can reduce rates of transmission.

"I urge local people to isolate and get a test if you have symptoms, follow the advice of NHS Test and Trace, and always remember 'hands, face, space'. By sticking to these steps, we will get through this together."

In the week to September 14, Covid-19 rates in Liverpool rose to 107.8 per 100,000 people, while in Warrington they stood at 100.5, and 124.5 in Oadby and Wigston.

In Wolverhampton, rates were 52.0 per 100,000 people.

It comes after Mr Hancock said a second national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus has not been ruled out but the "great hope" is that people will heed current advice to help manage a "very serious" situation.

He said a national lockdown was the "last line of defence" as he responded 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.

Mr Hancock told BBC Breakfast the latest data showed that hospital admissions across England are now doubling every eight days, amid warnings that deaths will 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 stick to the advice, and those testing positive or identified as a close contact must go into isolation.

"If we do all these things, then we can avoid having to take serious further measures," he said.

Daily confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK
(PA Graphics)

Mr Hancock said the current approach was "targeted interventions", adding: "We want to avoid a national lockdown but we're prepared to do it, if we need to."

He 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."

Scientists from the Government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) have reportedly proposed a two-week national lockdown in October to tackle the rising number of Covid-19 cases.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the potential impact of a second national lockdown on the economy as "disastrous".

A spokesperson for Number 10 did not deny the two-week reports but said: "We, obviously, want to avoid any extended lockdown."

The Government is still under fire over the NHS Test and Trace system, which has seen up to four times the number of people trying to book a test as the number of tests available.

People queue outside a coronavirus testing centre offering walk-in appointments in north London
People queue outside a coronavirus testing centre offering walk-in appointments in north London (Kirsty O'Connor/PA)

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.

New figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Friday showed an estimated 59,800 people in private households in England had Covid-19 between September 4 and 10 – around one in 900 individuals.

The ONS said the latest estimate "shows the number of infections has increased in recent weeks".

Overall, an average of 6,000 people in England per day were estimated to be newly infected with Covid-19 between September 4 and 10, up from 3,200 people per day from August 30 to September 5.

The figures do not include people staying in hospitals or care homes.

Earlier, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan told the PA news agency the city is "two weeks behind" parts of the UK that are seeing tighter restrictions.

"That's why I'm saying to Londoners please follow the advice," he added.

Mr Khan also said London's annual New Year's Eve fireworks display will not take place this year, but there were plans for something "people can enjoy in the comfort and safety of their living rooms on TV".

Globally, confirmed cases of the coronavirus have topped 30 million worldwide, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

More than half of the total Covid-19 infections have been recorded in just three countries – the US, India and Brazil.