Another 200,000 people will be placed under the most stringent coronavirus restrictions after ministers confirmed a deal to put Warrington into Tier 3 has been struck.
As of 00.01 on Tuesday, pubs and bars in the Cheshire town will have to close unless they serve meals and households will be banned from mixing indoors or in private gardens and beer gardens.
Betting shops, adult gaming centres, casinos and soft play centres will also close as part of the decision to put Warrington’s 210,000 population into the highest alert level in England.
The council will receive a financial support package of £1.68 million to help contact tracing and enforcement as well as £4.2 million in business support from the Government.
According to analysis by the PA news agency, in the seven days to October 21 the rate of new cases in Warrington was 377.1 per 100,000 people, with 792 new cases.
This was up from 342.8 the previous week when there were 720 new cases.
The North West area will join Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and South Yorkshire – which saw fresh restrictions imposed on the weekend – in Tier 3.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Infection rates are rising in Warrington, and we have agreed with local leaders that it’s time to take action.
“I know that these new measures will mean sacrifices must be made by the people in Warrington, and I want to extend my thanks to each and every one of them for recognising the severity of the situation and sticking to the rules.
“We have agreed a support package designed to help businesses while boosting efforts to control the virus locally, and will not hesitate to take similar action in any area of the country if infection rates continue to rise.
“Please remember – now is the time for us all to work together to get this virus under control.”
Parts of Nottinghamshire could be the next in line to enter Tier 3 after discussions carried on through the weekend.
Local politicians indicated they expected the new measures to potentially come into force as early as Wednesday but it is understood an announcement affecting the region was unlikely to be made on Monday, with Downing Street saying discussions were ongoing.
In an interview on Monday, Mr Hancock said areas under Tier 3 restrictions would have to prove that their infection rate was “coming down”, especially among those aged 60 or over, before they could be removed from the strictest measures.
He has also refused to rule out bringing in a tougher set of Tier 4 impositions following reports another level is being considered to tackle England’s rise in infections.
Asked about the criteria for an area to exit Tier 3, Mr Hancock told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The first thing that’s most important is that the case rate has to be coming down. And in particular we look at the number of cases amongst the over-60s because that’s the number that is likely to translate into hospital admissions and sadly into deaths.”
Mr Hancock also suggested a vaccine would not provide an escape route from the social restrictions until next year.
He told Today it was his “central expectation” that the mass roll-out of any vaccine would be “in the first half of next year”.
NHS England confirmed on Monday a further 91 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths reported in hospitals to 31,910.
The patients were aged between 44 and 95 and all had known underlying health conditions, with the majority passing on or after October 23.
The death toll update comes as the Government faced criticism for looking at the possibility of easing the rules for people ordered to self-isolate after coming into contact with someone who had tested positive for the disease because of low levels of stay-at-home compliance.
Ministers confirmed they were looking at reducing the time that people have to quarantine at home from 14 days to between 10 days and a week. But Number 10 insisted no decision had been made yet.
Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, told the Today programme it “would certainly increase the risk of transmission” because people infected in the last stage of the incubation period would be “allowed to be back out in public.”
But Cabinet minister Mr Hancock pointed to France as an example of where a similar measure had been introduced and said any changes would be “about the overall clinical judgment” of what was necessary.
Meanwhile, Wales’s Health Minister Vaughan Gething has said he was “saddened” to hear of an incident in which a woman was incorrectly told she could not buy sanitary products at a Tesco store due to the firebreak lockdown.
Tesco has apologised over the error and said an aisle selling sanitary items at one of its stores was temporarily closed due to a break-in.
The Welsh Government is currently reviewing its ban on the sale of non-essential items during the two-week lockdown.