Tens of thousands more deaths could come in the second wave of coronavirus, a Government adviser warned as South Yorkshire became the latest region to face a Tier 3 lockdown.
Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Government’s Sage advisory panel, warned that health services were already under strain in north-west England and other parts of the country were a few weeks behind – with possible peaks over Christmas.
His stark warning came as South Yorkshire agreed a deal with the Government which will see the highest level of coronavirus restrictions imposed from Saturday.
Prof Edmunds said the expected trajectory of the second wave of coronavirus cases without further restrictions was “quite gloomy”.
He told MPs: “I think if you look at where we are, there’s no way we come out of this wave now without counting our deaths in the tens of thousands.”
It comes as a further 26,688 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus were recorded in the UK as of 9am on Wednesday, which is the highest figure reported for a single day in Britain since the beginning of the pandemic.
The Government also said a further 191 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, as of Wednesday. This brings the UK total to 44,158.
Concerns about rising coronavirus cases led to action in South Yorkshire, where officials said infection rates range from 285 people per 100,000 in Doncaster up to 402 people per 100,000 in Sheffield.
The region will receive a £41 million package of funding, but Sheffield City Council’s leader Julie Dore pleaded with ministers to “do the right thing” and offer extra support to all Tier 3 areas.
The deal with South Yorkshire comes after bitter wrangling over money with Greater Manchester led to the highest level of restrictions being imposed from Whitehall without an agreement.
The Prime Minister told MPs he would now bypass Greater Manchester’s mayor Andy Burnham and offer £60 million to the region’s local councils.
The measures in South Yorkshire, which will cover around 1.4 million people in Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield, will come into force on Saturday.
Sheffield’s leader Ms Dore said: “I would plead with government to increase the levels of support they are providing for Tier 3.”
Sheffield City Region’s Labour mayor Dan Jarvis told the PA news agency he had “moved heaven and earth to secure the maximum amount of resource that we could”, adding: “I honestly don’t think I could have got any more money out of the Government.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “A failure to act now would only lead to tougher and longer lasting restrictions later.
“I understand the sacrifice people in South Yorkshire have already made and the enormous impact further measures will have on people’s lives.”
The announcement means 7.3 million people, or 13% of England’s population, will now be living under Tier 3 restrictions which include a ban on households mixing and the closure of pubs and bars which do not serve meals.
In South Yorkshire, the restrictions will also include the closure of betting shops, adult gaming centres, casinos and soft play centres.
Gym classes will not be allowed, but gyms will remain open.
It could take two to three weeks to establish whether tough top-tier coronavirus restrictions are working in a region, Dr Clare Gardiner, director general of the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC), told MPs.
In other developments:
– Coronavirus restrictions in Scotland which saw the closure of pubs and restaurants in the central belt and a 6pm indoor hospitality curfew elsewhere are to be extended until November 2.
– One in 20 people with Covid-19 are still suffering symptoms eight weeks later, while one in 50 are struggling after three months, according to a study from King’s College London.
– Gyms in Merseyside can reopen after a U-turn over their inclusion in the Liverpool City Region’s Tier 3 restrictions.
– Government talks with Tees Valley and Tyneside about possible Tier 3 restrictions have been paused following signs that progress has been made in controlling Covid-19 cases there.
In the Commons, the fallout continued from the acrimonious dispute between Mr Johnson’s Government and Mr Burnham’s regional administration.
The Prime Minister said Mr Burnham had turned down £60 million so “that cash will be distributed to the boroughs of Greater Manchester” instead.
The Government has indicated that Tier 3 areas receive £8 per capita for enforcement measures and local test and trace schemes and around £20 per capita for business support, although there has been some variation in the deals agreed with the Liverpool City Region, Lancashire and South Yorkshire.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer argued that a new approach was needed: “I really think the Prime Minister has crossed a Rubicon here, not just with the miserly way that he’s treated Greater Manchester, but the grubby take-it-or-leave-it way these local deals are being done.”
His call was echoed by Confederation of British Industry director-general Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, who said businesses were “suffering badly from lack of clarity and delayed timing on financial support”.
Labour’s call for a national framework of support was rejected in the Commons following a testy debate, during which the party’s deputy leader Angela Rayner was accused of calling a Tory MP “scum”.