More than a million people in South Yorkshire are living under the strictest coronavirus rules after the region moved into the Tier 3 controls as health officials battle to stem the spread of the disease.
The region joined Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester and Lancashire on the highest alert level for England with the new rules kicking in on Saturday at 12.01am.
Meanwhile, talks were continuing between the Government and local leaders in Nottinghamshire, with parts of the county expected to enter Tier 3 on Wednesday.
And the council in Warrington in Cheshire – where many residents commute to Manchester and Liverpool – has confirmed that it will be moving to Tier 3 on Thursday.
It means households will be banned from mixing except in parks and other open spaces while pubs and bars will have to close unless they serve meals.
Three more areas – Coventry, Stoke and Slough – have now also moved into Tier 2, the second highest alert level.
It came as Wales began a two-week national “firebreak” at 6pm on Friday evening with a return to the “stay at home” message of the initial lockdown in March.
In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has set out a five-tier series of controls which will come into force on November 2 if they are approved next week by the Holyrood Parliament.
In England, ministers have said they hope the latest measures will suppress the virus sufficiently to enable families to spend Christmas together.
Some scientists advising the Government remain highly sceptical, warning much tighter controls will be needed to get the situation under control and prevent many more deaths.
The latest figures suggest the number of new daily cases across England doubled in a fortnight – although scientists said the rate of spread of the virus may be slowing.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) infection survey estimated there was an average of 35,200 new cases per day of Covid-19 in the community in England between October 10 and 16.
That was up 26% from an estimated 27,900 new cases per day for the period from October 2 to 8 and just over double the 17,200 new cases per day from September 25 to October 1.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said the reproduction number, or R value, for the whole of the UK had nudged down to between 1.2 and 1.4. Last week it put the figure at between 1.3 and 1.5.
A further 224 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Friday, while as of 9am there had been a further 20,530 lab-confirmed cases in the UK.
Ahead of South Yorkshire entering Tier 3, Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis acknowledged many people would find the return stricter rules “deeply frustrating” and would fear for their futures and their livelihoods.
But in an open letter to residents, he said the tougher measures were necessary as infection rates continued to rise.
“The scientific advice is that they can help. We still have a difficult path ahead, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
“These restrictions will help us reach it sooner, and at a lower cost.”
Meanwhile Labour has claimed almost half a million self-employed people will be left with just two-fifths of their normal income under the Government’s latest financial support package.
The party said for the average self-employed person working in the arts or hospitality sectors, they will receive just £450 a month through the scheme this winter – half the amount they received a month during the first lockdown.
Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said: “The promise of doing ‘whatever it takes’ to protect workers is a distant memory.
“Despite public health restrictions tightening and many sectors being shut, ministers are leaving self-employed people in the lurch.”
The Treasury said the Government had given £13 billion in grants to the self-employed, while the enhanced support plan unveiled by Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Thursday meant the UK’s support was “amongst the most generous in the world”.
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