United Kingdom

Matt Hancock stands by 10pm pubs curfew despite Tory fury

Matt Hancock today warned that 'hundreds of thousands' of Britons could die from Covid-19, if ministers ease all the restrictions and let the vicious disease 'rip' through the country once again.

The Health Secretary admitted it was 'perfectly reasonable' to argue No10 should drop all the measures, including the hotly-contested 10pm curfew and Rule of Six, in favour of a Swedish-style approach to the pandemic, which opted against a draconian lockdown in the spring.

But in a blunt response, he added: 'I just think the hundreds of thousands of deaths that would follow is not a price that anyone should pay.' His words echoed that of the Prime Minister, who in a gloomy press conference last night insisted that letting the virus 'take its course' risked overwhelming the NHS and causing thousands more deaths.

Mr Hancock's denial that he was taking an axe to civil liberties came as he side-stepped demands in the House of Commons to explain the scientific basis behind the economically-crippling 10pm curfew. Furious Tories accused him of not acting like a true Conservative and running a 'nanny-state'.  

His dramatic warning — even more chilling than terrifying estimates made by Downing Street's top two scientific advisers — came as he announced tough local lockdown measures in the Liverpool, Hartlepool, Warrington and Middlesbrough. Around a third of Britain — in the region of 22million people — will be under some form of extra controls, when the policies come into place.

But ministers are already facing a revolt over the measures, with Middlesbrough's mayor vowing to 'defy' the ban on socialising with other households indoors. Andy Preston, who is independent and not affiliated to any political party, accused ministers of 'ignorance' and claimed the measures were tougher than he and other local politicians lobbied for.

Mr Hancock's warning of hundreds of thousands of extra deaths came as a raft of data today suggested Britain's outbreak is no longer spiralling into another crisis.  

Department of Health bosses announced another 6,914 coronavirus cases — up 4.2 per cent in a week, despite warnings from the government's chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, and England's chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, that the UK was hurtling towards 50,000 new infections a day by mid-October.

Other promising statistics — from the government-funded REACT-1 study, carried out by Imperial College London academics, suggested the R rate has plunged back down to 1.1, from 1.7 in September. The report, based on tens of thousands of random swab tests, also claimed cases are rising less steeply than they were a few weeks ago.

Separate estimates from King's College London's Covid Symptom Study suggest that the rise in daily new cases is only 23 per cent higher than last week, after it more than doubled in the week before.  

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was repeatedly challenged by Tories on the swingeing restrictions as he announced new lockdown measures in Commons today

Britain announces 6,914 more coronavirus cases and 59 deaths 

Britain has announced another 6,914 coronavirus cases as a wave of statistics today suggested the UK's spike in infections is finally starting to slow down — but deaths continue to creep up.

Department of Health figures show the number of daily infections is just 4.2 per cent higher this week than it was last Thursday, when 6,634 positive tests were added to the official count.

Officials today also declared another 59 laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 deaths, up 47.5 per cent on the 40 posted this time last week but down slightly on the 71 registered yesterday.

Despite fatalities continuing to creep up, data now suggests that the surging numbers of cases which have rattled the nation in recent weeks appear to be slowing down.

Estimates from King's College London's Covid Symptom Study suggest that the rise in daily new cases is only 23 per cent higher than last week, after it more than doubled in the week before.

Although the current numbers of positive tests seem high and are higher than they were during the peak in March and April, the remain only a ripple as scientists predict that more than 100,000 people were catching the virus in the spring and tests would've picked up tens of thousands every day if the same amount of swabs were done then.

And the Government-funded REACT-1 study, carried out by Imperial College London, said there were signs that the R rate has fallen to around 1.1 now, from 1.7 in September, and that cases are now rising less steeply than they were a few weeks ago.

Department of Health figures show the number of daily infections is just 4.2 per cent higher this week than it was last Thursday, when 6,634 positive tests were added to the official count. 

Officials today also declared another 59 laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 deaths, up 47.5 per cent on the 40 posted this time last week but down slightly on the 71 registered yesterday. 

Despite fatalities continuing to creep up, data now suggests that the surging numbers of cases which have rattled the nation in recent weeks appear to be slowing down.

Estimates from King's College London's Covid Symptom Study suggest that the rise in daily new cases is only 23 per cent higher than last week, after it more than doubled in the week before.

This afternoon the elected mayor of Middlesbrough vowed to 'defy' new lockdown measures, accusing ministers of 'ignorance' after they brought in strict new measures for its population.

Independent Andy Preston lashed out after Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs the town, along with Liverpool, Hartlepool and Warrington would face the same curbs as the North East.  

In a video message Mr Preston said they went further than he and other local politicians had lobbied for, and in what is believed to be a first for a local politician, rejected the measures outlined in the Commons. 

Middlesbrough and Hartlepool councils had asked for a ban on households mixing in their own homes. But Mr Hancock announced it would also be illegal for households in those boroughs to mix in a public setting such as a pub.

'I have to tell you I think this measure has been introduced based on factual inaccuracies and a monstrous and frightening lack of communication, and ignorance,' Mr Preston said in a video posted on Twitter.

In the Commons, Conservative former Cabinet minister Greg Clark asked: 'It does seem strange to think that concentrating trade in a smaller number of hours and making everyone leave a pub or a restaurant at the same time rather than spacing them out over the course of the evening should suppress rather than spread the virus.'

Mr Hancock replied: 'The scientific advice is that the people who are closer together are more likely to spread the virus, and later at night social distancing becomes harder.

'We've all seen the pictures of people leaving pubs at 10 o'clock but otherwise they would have been inside the establishments and we all know that outside is safer, or they'd be leaving later.

'Of course, we keep this under review and of course we're constantly looking at how we can improve these policies, but I think we've got to look at both sides of the evidence to try to get this right.'

Tory backbencher Philip Davies accused Mr Hancock of presiding over a 'nanny state' with the imposed 10pm curfew policy and called on him to 'start acting like a Conservative'. 

Conservative former Cabinet minister Greg Clark asked in the Commons for the scientific basis for the policy

Holidays to Italy and Greece are SAVED - but travellers from Turkey and Poland must now self-isolate for 14-days 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps today announced Turkey and Poland are being added to the Government's travel quarantine 'red list' - but holidays to Greece and Italy are still allowed.

As of 4am on Saturday anyone returning from Turkey or Poland, as well as the Caribbean islands of Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba, must quarantine for 14 days.

There had been speculation that restrictions were going to be imposed on Italy and Greece after a spike in cases but the two nations were ultimately given a reprieve.

Mr Shapps tweeted this evening: 'TRAVEL CORRIDOR UPDATE: The latest data indicates we need to remove Turkey, Poland, and Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba from the #TravelCorridor list this week.' 

There were fears earlier today that Greece and Italy could be added after the former recorded 20.5 cases per 100,000 people in recent days while Italy was at slightly above 20 per 100,000.

The Government currently uses a threshold of 20 cases per 100,000, along with a number of other criteria, when it makes decisions on whether to add or remove countries from its quarantine list.

Mr Davies said: 'Is the Secretary of State aware of the damage the arbitrary 10pm curfew is doing to pubs, restaurants, bowling alleys and casinos? Is he aware of the jobs that are being lost, all just to see people congregating on the streets instead and shop staff getting more abuse?

'When will the Secretary of State start acting like a Conservative with a belief in individual responsibility and abandon this arbitrary, nanny state, socialist approach which is serving no purpose at all apart from the further collapse of the economy and erode our freedoms?'

But Mr Hancock said he 'profoundly' disagreed with Mr Davies, saying he believed in 'individual responsibility and the promotion of freedom, subject to not harming others'.

He added: 'So it is perfectly reasonable to make the argument that we should just let the virus rip, I just think that the hundreds of thousands of deaths that would follow is not a price that anyone should pay.'

However, ex-cabinet minister Jeremy Hunt earlier said the local lockdowns may have prevented the current second wave of infections from taking hold across the country.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'I think the evidence from what happened earlier in the year, not just in this country but all over the world, is that acting early, decisively, quickly, is actually the best way to contain the spread of the virus and that's what I think Chris Whitty and the Prime Minister are saying.

'One of the things that is often not noted about Italy was the successful way in which they managed to contain the outbreak of the virus in northern Italy, in Lombardy, and avoid it spreading to the rest of the country.

'Now, we didn't manage to do that first time round but it just may be that these local lockdowns, although we haven't seen a big reduction in transmission within those areas, they may just have contained it and stopped it from becoming the national outbreak that we had before.'

'We do not accept these measures': Middlesbrough's mayor leads backlash against lockdown as town is placed into same strict regime as North East along with Liverpool as Government plots 'three-tier traffic light' system for UK restrictions

Boris Johnson was facing a coronavirus revolt in the north today as the elected mayor of Middlesbrough vowed to 'defy' new lockdown measures, accusing ministers of 'ignorance' after they brought in strict new measures for its population.

Independent Andy Preston lashed out after Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs the town, along with Liverpool, Hartlepool and Warrington would face the same curbs as the North East. 

In a video message Mr Preston said they went further than he and other local politicians had lobbied for, and in what is believed to be a first for a local politician, rejected the measures outlined in the Commons. 

Middlesbrough and Hartlepool councils had asked for a ban on households mixing in their own homes. But Mr Hancock announced it would also be illegal for households in those boroughs to mix in a public setting such as a pub.

'I have to tell you I think this measure has been introduced based on factual inaccuracies and a monstrous and frightening lack of communication, and ignorance,' Mr Preston said in a video posted on Twitter.

'I do not accept the statement at all. I do not accept these measures. We need to talk to government, they need to understand our local knowledge, expertise and ability to get things done, and preserve jobs and well-being.

'We are really disappointed. As things stand we defy the Government and we do not accept these measures.

'We need to get Covid under control and we need to work with people to find a way of preserving jobs and mental health.'

As head of the local council Mr Preston has no official powers to over-rule the decision taken by ministers. But he could, in theory, prevent council staff from helping to enforce the pub closures and household meeting ban - though there has been no suggestion yet that he would.

The confirmation comes despite Mr Hancock hailing 'early' indications that the nationwide Rule of Six and 10pm pubs curfew are already bringing cases under control - and downgrading the swingeing measures in place in Bolton.

Meanwhile, there are signs that ministers are scrambling to simplify the rules after even the premier became muddled this week. A 'traffic light' system could be introduced to show what restrictions are in place for different regions, with three tiers of intensity. 

There are hopes could help free up some parts of the South that have dramatically lower rates of infection than the North.  

Independent Andy Preston lashed out after Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs the town, along with Liverpool, Hartlepool and Warrington would face the same curbs as the North East

'There's no way people are going to stay at home': Furious residents of Middlesbrough join mayor in protest against lockdown measures 

Furious locals in Middlesbrough today backed mayor Andy Preston in his defiance of the Government's new coronavirus restrictions.   

Sarah Best, 28, who owns the Sherlock's and Dr Watson's bars in the North Yorkshire town, said she had feared she would have to close her doors in as little as three weeks under the latest rules. 

She said: 'When people can only go the pub with members of their own household it's obviously going to reduce trade even more. 

'The 10pm curfew has been bad enough and it doesn't work. People gather in the street and can't get taxis because everyone has to leave at once. 

Landlady Sarah Best, 28, said she had feared she would have to close her doors in as little as three weeks under the latest rules

'We're just hanging on and if things don't change I might have to close the doors in three weeks, that's how bad it is. I really think customers will rebel, especially if the mayor is backing us. 

'We'll listen to Andy, we get more support and back from the mayor than we do from government.  How do you enforce this rule anyway? I'm not going to be asking customers for utility bills.' 

Nicola Brogan and Paula Hoare, both 27, added the rules are now 'so confused that it's impossible to enforce' them.  

'It's crazy that we can't see relatives who need to see people to stay in touch but you can come down to the pub,' Ms Hoare said.

Nicola Brogan (left) and Paula Hoare (right), both 27, added the rules are now 'so confused that it's impossible to enforce' them

'The mayor is sticking up for the town where there is already massive poverty.' 

Ms Brogan added: 'I worked with the mayor on a charity project and he's a very well liked and respected guy. I think people will listen to what he thinks more than the government.'

Liam Watson, 24, said: 'There's no way people are going to stay at home and not go to the pub when you've got the mayor saying 'defy the ban.'

'Good for him. He's sticking up for people and trying to stop businesses going bust and if it comes down to it I'd rather listen to our local leader than some muppet at Westminster. They don't know anything about us.' 

However, Craig Kevin, 47, who works in a fast food stall, said Mr Preston had merely 'added to the confusion' with his video statement.    

'Andy Preston has added to the confusion and I think people will just decide to carry on as normal because they don't actually believe any of them,' he said. 

'Boris Johnson didn't even know the rules as they apply to the North East when he was asked the other day so what chance do the public have, especially when national and local Government are saying different things.'

Nathaniel Lawton, 42, was today having a drink with friends outside the town's Swatter's Carr

Nathaniel Lawton, 42, was today having a drink with friends outside the town's Swatter's Carr. 

He said: 'It's funny to see Andy Preston saying 'defy the law' when he was the one who was asking for stricter rules in the first place. 

'He decided MIddlesbrough needed restrictions but he hasn't got the ones he wanted which he should maybe have seen coming. 

'There will always be those who adhere to the rules and those who don't. No matter what anybody says, whether it's the government or the mayor, people will decide the law doesn't apply to them. 

'It's being spread anyway through offices and schools so I can't see the restrictions making that much difference.' 

Results from the largest Covid-19 study in England found the R-rate fell from 1.7 to around 1.1 last month.

But the director of the study, by Imperial College London and Ipsos Mori, said the interim findings from 80,000 participants 'reinforced the need for protective measures' to help extinguish the virus.

Mr Hancock told the Commons: 'The study published today shows us hope that we can crack this.'

However, he again defied calls for the 10pm curfew on pubs to be lifted amid claims it is doing 'more harm than good'. Mr Hancock's positive message on the findings of the study contrasted sharply with the grim message from Boris Johnson, Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance at a Downing Street press conference last night. 

The PM and his senior medical and science advisers warned that the outbreak was 'going in the wrong direction' - even though it is understood they were aware of the latest Imperial findings in advance. 

Liverpool had been braced for more measures to curb a recent rise in infections that has left it with the highest rolling seven-day rate of new cases at 258 per 100,000, while nearby Knowsley is second at 262. 

In addition, Luton, Wakefield, Chester, East and West Cheshire, Barrow-in-Furness and Rotherham have been added to the Government's watchlist as 'areas of concern'. 

And Sheffield has been moved up to an area of 'enhanced support', suggesting it could be the next to be placed in lockdown.

Areas of concern are the focus of targeted actions to reduce the prevalence of coronavirus, for example receiving additional testing in care homes and increased community engagement with high-risk groups.

Areas for enhanced support are those at a medium-high risk of intervention where there is a more detailed plan, agreed with the national authorities.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called for a 'rapid review' of the local lockdown strategy and urged the Government to consider whether the 10pm curfew should remain.    

'We have supported these restrictions, but we have now got - after this morning's announcement - over 50 areas in local restrictions and over the weeks and months only one area has come out of these restrictions,' he said.

'So we need a strategy, a road map, people need to have hope that this is going to work.'

He told reporters at Westminster that the Government needed to 'massively improve' the way it communicated and provide economic support for areas at the same time restrictions were imposed.

'I think we need a rapid review of the local lockdowns because what we are seeing is that in some areas in lockdown the infection rates are going up, not down.

'That's worrying and there needs to be a review into that. In other areas they have been in local lockdown for months and so there needs to be a rapid review - what's working, what isn't working, what does the science tell us about that.'

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Hancock was repeatedly challenged over the blanket 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants in England. 

There were complaints that people have been causing issues by piling out of venues and going to the supermarket for more alcohol, or having house parties instead. 

But Mr Hancock said: 'Of course, we keep this under review and of course we're constantly looking at how we can improve these policies, but I think we've got to look at both sides of the evidence to try to get this right.'

He added: 'We know that sustained contact, especially in crowded, poorly ventilated spaces is a driver of infection and pubs and bars an obvious risk.

'So I heard what he said about the 10pm rule, but my concerns relate to everybody leaving the pub at the same time.'

Warrington Borough Council leader Russ Bowden said: 'These restrictions are disappointing for our town but are, again, a necessary response in helping us to drive down the number of case of coronavirus in Warrington.

'Now more than ever, we need to do all we can to stop the spread of the virus.'

He added: 'I'm aware the Government has announced a support package for affected councils as part of the announcement of these new restrictions.

'I await the detail on what this funding could mean but it's clear that, as part of these strict new measures, we need to do all we can to support affected businesses - not least our hospitality industry which will, again, be seriously impacted by these new restrictions.

'We will, therefore, continue to work closely with Government and press them for the support our hospitality sector needs during this increasingly difficult period.'

Earlier, Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson called for a two-week 'circuit-breaker' lockdown to restrict the virus from spreading. 

But his colleague, Metro Mayor Steve Rotherham, repeated his opposition to the proposal, which he insisted was never discussed as an option when he spoke to Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty.  

The elected mayor of Middlesbrough said he was prepared to defy the Government and reject new coronavirus measures imposed on the town in what was thought to be a first for an authority figure.

Independent Andy Preston was furious with the new rules which go further than he and his counterparts in Hartlepool had lobbied for earlier in the week. 

Simon Clarke, Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, had been opposed to extra measures and spoke in the Commons earlier about the need for a clear exit strategy.

In response to the new rules, he said: 'I would like to personally thank Mr Hancock for ensuring that a clear, evidence-led exit strategy has been included in the measures imposed on Middlesbrough.

'I was clear in my opposition to any further local restrictions at this time, especially seen as the latest national restrictions had not had even a week to bed in.

'And while I respectfully disagreed with the decision of Middlesbrough mayor Andy Preston to request a local lockdown in Middlesbrough, I am in no doubt that he acted in good faith in making this request of the Government.

'So now we are where we are, our focus must shift to protecting the most vulnerable members of our society.'

Andy McDonald, Labour MP for Middlesbrough, said the new measures were 'inevitable'.

He said: 'I've said before that no one welcomes further restrictions, but we on Teesside sit next to seven neighbouring North East local authorities where tighter restrictions have been imposed for some time now because of worryingly high rates of Covid-19.

The weekly infection rate in Liverpool now stands at 258.4 per 100,000 people

The north west of England, which has seen areas such as Burnley and Liverpool (pictured today) placed under local restrictions, had the highest levels of infection while the number of infections

HOW HAS THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK CHANGED?

The REACT study, run by Imperial College London and funded by the Department of Health, has been tracking England's Covid-19 outbreak throughout the summer.

The prevalence of the virus is based on what proportion of people tested have a positive result, and is used to work out what percentage of people in the country currently have the virus. 

This is how the data shows the change in England's outbreak: 

Round three: July 24 - August 11 

Round four: August 20 - September 8 

Round five: September 18 - 25 

The most recent round of results from REACT provides estimates for the prevalence of the virus in different regions across England as follows:

'It's only 13 miles from Middlesbrough to Sedgefield in County Durham and the virus is clearly in circulation right across the North East region at levels that are concerning and the virus pays no heed to the local authority borders between County Durham and the Tees Valley local authority areas.'

At the press conference last night, the PM dismissed pressure from many Tories to change strategy and focus on protecting jobs, saying he would not 'throw in the sponge'. 

There has been increasing anxiety - including in Cabinet - about following the ultra-cautious approach from Prof Whitty and Sir Patrick. One senior minister told MailOnline that the government was now 'talking more widely to people with different views'.  

While the rate of infection appears to be falling, the study, commissioned by the Department of Health, found that of the volunteers tested between September 18-26, one in 200 people had coronavirus.

It also revealed the virus to be spreading more among young people, while simultaneously laying bare the North-South divide, pointing to the North West as the epicentre of the UK's outbreak.

Professor Paul Elliott, director of the programme at Imperial from the School of Public Health, said: 'While our latest findings show some early evidence that the growth of new cases may have slowed, suggesting efforts to control the infection are working, the prevalence of infection is the highest that we have recorded to date.

'This reinforces the need for protective measures to limit the spread of the disease and the public's adherence to these, which will be vital to minimise further significant illness and loss of life from Covid-19.'  

Asked whether the Prime Minister and his advisers would have seen this study before their downbeat TV briefing yesterday, Professor Elliot said 'yes'.

'We report in weekly to Government and so they are aware of these statistics from our study,' he said this morning. 'Clearly there are a range of stats that are considered by Government and we're just one area.'

But he did not agree that the tone of the briefing should have been more optimistic, and said: 'I thought the messaging was very good yesterday. We've got to really quite high levels of the virus.

'One in 200 people who are walking the streets today, on average, [would] test positive for the virus. It's not dependent on the testing system [and] it's not just symptomatic people.

'I think people have begun to hear the message since the beginning of September. The rate of increase of the virus at the beginning for September was alarming… now we've got to high rates we've really got to do something about it and that was the message yesterday. The rate of rise may have slowed and that's the first step.'

Professor Steven Riley agreed and added: 'This [study] is entirely consistent with the messaging yesterday – 100 per cent consistent with the messaging. All the public health measures that are in place right now are absolutely crucial…

Jeremy Hunt says early local lockdowns might have controlled surge 

Coronavirus cases are at a much lower level than in March and local lockdowns might have helped control the outbreak, Jeremy Hunt said today. 

The Health Select Committee chair insisted people should not be too alarmed by the situation, as earlier action had been taken this time around.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'I think the evidence from what happened earlier in the year, not just in this country but all over the world, is that acting early, decisively, quickly, is actually the best way to contain the spread of the virus and that's what I think Chris Whitty and the Prime Minister are saying.

'One of the things that is often not noted about Italy was the successful way in which they managed to contain the outbreak of the virus in northern Italy, in Lombardy, and avoid it spreading to the rest of the country.

'Now, we didn't manage to do that first time round but it just may be that these local lockdowns, although we haven't seen a big reduction in transmission within those areas, they may just have contained it and stopped it from becoming the national outbreak that we had before.'

'If we were reporting it we would very much comment on the prevalence. It [the messaging] has to go negative for us to avoid substantial numbers of hospitalisations and deaths.' 

Politicians in the region met with Mr Hancock last night, with the final decision taken after a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Boris Johnson this morning.

Mr Anderson said measures to restrict travel, in place in some areas of Wales, had not been put forward, but he believed the Government was considering measures to ensure restaurants only take bookings.

Environment Secretary George Eustice told BBC Breakfast: 'I know that there are some discussions, I understand, that are going on about the situation in Liverpool, but no decisions have been taken yet.

'It's not really possible for me to say what they may or may not do since I think there's currently dialogue between health officials and the local council there.'

Halton MP Derek Twigg said he and other local MPs had 'demanded' a meeting with the Health Minister.

In a statement released on Wednesday evening, Mr Twigg said: 'I raised several concerns and issues and asked for evidence and data on the impact of Covid-19 on our area.

'I was assured that a decision has not yet been taken on the further local restrictions we may face but it is likely to be decided tomorrow.'

Local leaders have called for the Government to provide financial support if it brings in stricter restrictions.

In a joint statement, Liverpool City Region metro mayor Steve Rotheram and the leaders of Liverpool, Sefton, Wirral, St Helens, Halton and Knowsley authorities have called for the Government to work with them, provide financial support and increase testing capacity.

They said: 'Throughout the pandemic, we have always put the health of our residents first and we will continue to do everything we can to stop the spread of coronavirus and keep as many people as possible safe.

The REACT study shows that prevalence of the coronavirus has surged in all regions over the summer, with the North of England worst affected. Pictured: The graphs show different phases of the study, starting with May in the top left and September in the bottom right. Darker colours show higher rates of Covid-19

The prevalence of Covid-19 varies widely across different regions of England but is not lower than one case per 400 people in any part of the nation, the researchers said. It is highest in the North West, where almost one in 100 people are carrying the disease

The Imperial College London's predictions of the prevalence of Covid-19 - the percentage of people who have the illness - rose sharply in September (illustrated by the pink lines)

'However, at the same time, we must be clear that any further restrictions will deal a hammer blow to our economy.'

Revellers in Liverpool make their way home earlier this week after partying until the 10pm curfew 

North Wales lockdown: What are the new restrictions from 6pm tonight and how long could they last?

Where are the lockdowns being imposed?

The Welsh Government has announced Denbighshire, Flintshire, Conwy and Wrexham will be placed under local lockdowns from 6pm on Thursday.

Announcing the new measures, health minister Vaughan Gething said: 'It's always difficult to make the decision to impose restrictions but we hope that these measures will make a positive difference - just as we have seen in Caerphilly and Newport, where local residents have pulled together and followed the rules.'

What are the new restrictions?

Under the new measures, people under lockdown will not be allowed to enter or leave the county in which they live without a reasonable excuse, such as travel for work or education.

People will also only be able to meet people they do not live with outdoors and will not be able to form, or be in, extended households.

How many people will be affected?

The local lockdown will affect around 504,000 people and will bring the number of people in Wales under lockdown to more than 2.3 million.

It means 16 areas of the country will face some form of extra restrictions, with the majority of the other areas under lockdown located in South Wales.

Why are the measures being brought in?

The Welsh Government said the local lockdowns are being imposed after people meeting indoors, not following social-distancing guidelines and returning from summer holidays overseas with the virus led to a surge in cases.

Mr Gething said: 'These are largely linked to people socialising indoors and are the pattern of transmission similar to what we have seen in South Wales.

'We have worked closely with local authority leaders and the police in North Wales and we all agree about the need to take swift action to control the spread of the virus.'

How long will the lockdowns last?

While there is no definitive answer as to how long the new restrictions will be in place, authorities have said they will be under 'constant review'.

Councillor Mark Pritchard, leader of Wrexham County Borough Council, said: 'It's a balance between people's health and the economy, and we have to do everything we can to get it right.

'These measures will be kept under constant review as we look to control the spread of the virus in the counties of Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham.' 

Four Welsh local authority areas - Denbighshire, Flintshire, Conwy and Wrexham - will go into lockdown at 6pm tonight, with people banned from meeting anyone outside their household indoors. 

People will also be forbidden to enter or leave the county in which they live without a reasonable excuse, such as travel for work or education. 

In North Wales, the new local lockdown will affect around 504,000 people and will bring the number of people in the country under lockdown to more than 2.3 million.

It means 16 areas of the country will face some form of extra restrictions, with the majority of the other areas under lockdown located in South Wales. 

This morning, Jim Jones of North Wales Tourism said he had seen no evidence that visitors were responsible for the spread and warned the lockdown would devastate local businesses. 

'Business are extremely and understandably frustrated, it's another dark day,' he told BBC Radio Wales Breakfast.

'They have invested so much time and gone to extraordinary measures to be Covid-compliant and make everybody safe and then all of a sudden they've got to cancel bookings and tell visitors to go home.'    

The North East was made subject to new restrictions yesterday morning, with people banned from meeting anyone inside unless they are part of their Covid bubble. However this stopped short of a full lockdown that would shut pubs and restaurants. 

It comes as Boris Johnson was bolstered by new figures showing the Covid infection rate has started slowing since restrictions were tightened.

In the strongest evidence yet that local lockdowns are working, results from the largest Covid-19 study in England found the R-rate fell from 1.7 to around 1.1 this month.

The director of the study by Imperial College London and Ipsos Mori said the interim findings from 80,000 participants 'reinforced the need for protective measures' to help extinguish the virus.

That restrictions are seemingly helping to stem the spread of Covid-19 will help the Prime Minister's case for imposing curbs to flatten the second wave.

The trio presented maps that starkly exposed the North-South coronavirus divide. And official data shows that the average number of positive tests each day is at least twice as high in North West England as in any other region, and that Scotland's cases are 14 times higher than they were at the beginning of August, outpacing England's outbreak.

An average 1,595 cases of Covid-19 are being diagnosed in the North West every day now, compared to just 150 in the South West, while Yorkshire and the Humber and the North East face the second highest infection rates. All of the 10 areas with the worst case-per-person ratios are in the north, while eight of 10 of those with the lowest are in the south. Professor Whitty said there was a 'heavy concentration' of coronavirus towards the top of England. 

In a plea to the public the Prime Minister said: 'If we put in the work together now then we give ourselves the best possible chance of avoiding that outcome and avoiding further measures.'

'I know some people will think we should give up and let the virus take its course despite the huge loss of life that would potentially entail. I have to say I profoundly disagree. I don't think that is what the British people want. I don't think they want to throw in the sponge. They want to fight and defeat this virus and that is what we are going to do.' 

'Even as we fight Covid, it is vital that people get all the treatment they need for other conditions. But I must be clear, if the NHS were to be overwhelmed by covid, then no-one could get any such care.' 

Highlighting the sharp rise in infections and defending his recent comments warning that the UK could see 50,000 coronavirus cases a day by mid-October, Sir Patrick said grimly: 'Things are definitely going in the wrong direction.' 

Professor Whitty slapped back at critics, saying they had accused him of being 'too optimistic and too pessimistic on numbers'. But he said that in March the government failed to recognise how fast the virus was spreading and the mistake could not be repeated. In a gloomy message, he said: 'We have a long winter ahead of us.' 

Matt Hancock slammed over Vitamin D blunder 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was told to 'get his facts straight' today after shooting down vitamin D as a potential coronavirus treatment despite a growing body of evidence from around the world suggesting it works.

Experts have for months been calling for officials to look into the immune system-boosting nutrient's effect on Covid-19 patients after a mountain of research showed a link to vitamin D deficiency.

Mr Hancock told the House of Commons last week he had green-lit a Government-funded 'trial' investigating vitamin D and that it did not 'appear to have any impact'.

But officials have since admitted that no clinical trials had taken place and claim it was a slip of the tongue from the health secretary - who was also staunchly opposed to face masks in the spring and claimed they were 'extremely weak' in stopping Covid-19's spread.

According to national surveys in the UK, roughly one in five people have low vitamin D levels, the equivalent of 13million Brits.

Mr Hancock has now agreed to meet experts to to hear the growing case for the vitamin, which the body produces when exposed to the sun. But his flippant dismissal of vitamin D has sparked fury among scientists and MPs who today said time is running out for ministers to act, as levels of the 'sunshine vitamin' drop dramatically in autumn and winter.

Experts said his comments 'displayed incredible ignorance', while Liberal Democrat MP Layla Morgan told MailOnline the secretary of state 'needs to be listening, not dismissing'. She added: 'I hope Matt Hancock will take a less flippant approach to potential treatments in future and get his facts straight before making such comments. We're in a crisis, it's time for politicians to stop playing science and listen to the experts.'

Data presented by Professor Whitty in the televised briefing showed a clear north-south divide in the coronavirus infections across England. 

The scientific advisers admitted the top half of the country is clearly worse affected than the bottom, but insisted 'it would be wrong' to think the problem isn't nationwide.

A heat map of infection rates across the country showed that almost all of the South West, South East, East Midlands and the East of England were shaded in the lightest possible colour, meaning the numbers of cases are below the average for England.

The average infection rate for the country as a whole was 35.7 cases per 100,000 as at Public Health England's latest official update last Friday.

Colour-coding showed the problem is worst in the North West around Liverpool and Manchester and also in the far North East, towards Newcastle. 

Much of those two regions and the West Midlands - and to a lesser extent London and Cornwall - were shown in a darker colour, indicating case rates are near or above average.  

Professor Whitty said: 'At this point in time there is a very heavy concentration in particular areas - in particular in the North West, the North East and parts of the Midlands…

'There's a general increase [in the rate of infection] across the whole of England and the same is also true in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland… but a very rapid increase in particular areas; again, particularly in the North East, North West and areas of the Midlands [but] not exclusively.' 

Numbers of positive tests reported by the Department of Health reflect what was shown in the map, with the North West reporting significantly more cases than any other region.

In the week up to September 23 - the most recent data available - there were an average of 1,595 cases diagnosed each day in the crisis-hit region.

This was more than double the 663 daily average in Yorkshire and the Humber, three times as high as the 564 in the West Midlands and 551 in the North East.

It blows the more southern regions, except London (471 per day), out of the water.

In the East Midlands there were 274 cases per day over the same seven-day period, along with 227 in the South East, 185 in the East of England and just 150 in the South West.

This means that the looming threat of a national lockdown, which Mr Johnson yesterday said he didn't want to resort to but would if he had to, places millions of people at risk of being lumped under tight restrictions because of the actions of people hundreds of miles away.

MPs have already cautioned against 'broad brush' tactics that see people in less-affected areas unfairly punished.

But Sir Patrick Vallance insisted: 'It would be wrong to take from this that this is a problem that's only in certain areas.

'It is worse in certain areas but there is evidence of spread everywhere, and we need to be mindful of that and everyone needs to take precautions across the country.'  

Bars and restaurants could be forced to shut in Liverpool (pictured: People in the city enjoy a drink outside yesterday) as part of a circuit-breaker lockdown

Official data for Liverpool, with Covid cases from September 21 to 27 broken down by age and sex  

Liverpool John Moores University's campus has remained quarantine-free, despite footage of a huge booze-fuelled rave in an accommodation hall surfacing today

Revealed: All the areas of England, Scotland and Wales that have been hit by tougher local restrictions because of a spike in Covid-19 cases 

The map of Britain's coronavirus rules: As confusion reigns, where can you meet friends for a pint inside or outside? And will the lockdown police ask you for a 'reasonable excuse'? 

Britain's complex coronavirus rules have confused even the Prime Minister as numerous different restrictions are put in place across the country to try and keep the number of coronavirus cases down.

Aside from the standard rules in England, eight different regions have additional restrictions or rules that differ from those in place in England.

In total around 16.6m people in the UK are subject to local lockdowns, one quarter of the population.

Among the subtle differences are those between different local lockdown areas in England. For example in the North East, residents are legally banned from meeting people from outside their households inside pubs - but are free to do so outdoors. 

In Bolton pubs and restaurants have been closed completely and can do takeout only while funerals and weddings are limited to six people. In the North East the weddings and funeral limit remains 15.   

The devolved regions also have different rules. The rule of six applies to children in England, but not to under 12s in Scotland and under-11s in Wales. 

In Scotland the rule of six is limited to people from two households in Scotland. Residents are not allowed to host guests in their own homes, if the guests are from outside their household or support bubble. 

In Wales the rule of six is limited to people of up to four households indoors. Outdoors, people can gather in groups of up to 30 but should maintain social distancing from people from other households.

In Welsh local lockdown areas people can meet in their own gardens in groups of up to 30, but in English local lockdown areas the rules apply to gardens as a well as inside homes. Welsh people are also banned from leaving local lockdown areas unless they have a 'reasonable excuse'. 

Welsh wedding ceremonies do not have a limit on the number of attendees, but they must wear masks including the bride and groom. Welsh wedding receptions are limited to 30 people.  

These are the rules: 

England:

Social gatherings 

No more than six people are permitted to gather indoors or outdoors - with a few exceptions, which include going to school, work, or 'exceptional life events'.

Children are not exempt from the rules, unlike in Wales and Scotland 

Breaking these new restrictions mean fines of £200 (£100 if paid within 14 days), doubling for each incident up to £3,200. 

Pubs and Restaurants 

Pubs and restaurants across England must close at 10pm. The rule of six still applies but applies to each group inside - not the venue as a whole. 

Venues are now 'legally required' to take and keep the contact details of a member from every group of visitors for 21 days. This is so they can pass them on to NHS Test and Trace 'without delay' if needed.

The hospitality venue could face a fine if it fails to stick to the Covid security standards and the Government pledged to back local authorities to make 'further and faster use of their powers' against venues who break the rules. 

Covid-19 secure venues, such as places of worship, restaurants and hospitality venues, can still host larger numbers in total but groups of up to six must not mix or form larger groups.

Travel

The rule of six limit does not apply to strangers gathering in the same space, such as a train or bus.

Government guidelines say: 'You can help control coronavirus and travel safely by walking and cycling, if you can. However, where this is not possible, you can use public transport or drive. 

'If you do use public transport, you must wear a face covering and you should follow the safer travel guidance for passengers.'

Schools  

Face masks not required in schools outside local lockdown areas. Face masks are required for school pupils in Year 7 or above in communal areas in areas where local lockdowns are in place.  

Work  

The six person limit does not apply to gatherings for work. Offices should take steps to ensure social distancing is maintained.

The government initially urged workers to return to the office, but has since U-turned and called for anyone who can work from home to do so to try to drive down the number of cases.

Sport 

You can continue to take part in organised sporting or licensed physical activity in groups of more than 6 outdoors and up to 6 people indoors (for over 18s). 

Organised dance and exercise classes can take place in groups of more than six, but you must not mix with more than five other participants. 

Masks

Face coverings have to be worn on public transport, in shops and supermarkets. They are also needed in other indoor venues such as museums, cinemas, galleries and places of worship.

The government also advised people to where them wherever they cannot keep to social distancing guidelines.

Hospitality and retail workers now have to wear face coverings at work, as well as passengers in taxis.

Weddings and Funerals  

Weddings are limited to 15 people and funerals are limited to 30 people. Staff working at these events are not included.   

North East and Liverpool:

Seven local authorities in the North East and Liverpool are subject to some of the strictest restrictions, which came into force on Wednesday. The affected areas are:

How are the rules different to the rest of England?  

Social gatherings

Residents are legally banned from meeting friends who are not in their household or support bubble indoors. This includes in their homes or gardens, pubs and restaurants. But it does not include anywhere outdoors including pub beer gardens. 

The police will be able to take action against those who break these rules, including asking people to disperse and issuing fixed penalty notices starting at £200 for those who participate in illegal gatherings. 

While the rules do not ban people from meeting under the rule of six outside, the government advice states residents should not 'socialise with people you do not live with'. It also advises against visiting care home residents. 

Pubs and Restaurants 

Hospitality venues also have to close at 10pm like the rest of the country. It is against the law to sit in a pub with someone you do not live with or is in your bubble.

Travel

Public transport is restricted to 'essential trips', be it work or school or looking after an elderly relative. Going outside the area is also restricted to 'essential' reasons.

But this is not law, this is just government advice so it is left to people to judge for themselves what is essential.

Schools

Face masks are required for school pupils in Year 7 or above in communal areas in areas. 

Work

Same as the rest of England 

Masks

Same as the rest of England 

Sport

Sports can be played outdoors with more than six people, but indoors they are limited to six people out of only one 'one household and support bubble', the government say. 

Organised dance and exercise classes can take place in groups of more than 6 outdoors, where a risk assessment has been carried out, but you must not mix with more than five other participants. 

Weddings and Funerals

Same as the rest of the country. 

Bolton*

Bolton was put under tighter lockdown measures on September 5 as the stubborn infection rate remained high. At one point the rate increased to 99 cases per 100,000 people per week, which was the highest in England.

Social gatherings 

People are not allowed to host people from outside their own household or support bubble in their houses or garden.

Meeting outside is allowed, but pubs and restaurants are closed.  

Pubs and Restaurants

Pubs in Bolton are shut to stem a flare-up in infections. They can only serve takeaway, and are obliged to close completely between 10pm and 5am.

Travel

People can travel in and out of Bolton for work, education reason or other excuses deemed 'essential'.

Schools

Face masks are required for school pupils in Year 7 or above in communal areas in areas. 

Work

Same as rest of England.

Masks

Same as rest of England. 

Sport

You can continue to take part in organised sporting or licensed physical activity in groups of more than 6 outdoors and up to 6 people indoors (for over 18s).  

Weddings and Funerals

In Bolton, a maximum of 6 people should to attend these events. The government says this should be limited to close family of the people getting married or the person who has died, or people who live(d) or formed a support bubble with them. A close friend can attend a funeral only if there are no household members or immediate families. 

*rules change to the same as North West on 2 October 

Northern and Southern Wales

From 6pm on Thursday, residents of Denbighshire, Flintshire, Conwy and Wrexham will be banned from mixing indoors with other households - affecting 500,000 people. The full list of Welsh areas in lockdown include:

How do the rules differ from England?

Social gatherings:

In the Welsh local lockdown areas meeting anyone from outside your own household indoors is banned.

Meeting them in gardens or outdoors is allowed. 

However people are allowed to gather in groups of thirty outdoors - including in private gardens.

Outside the local lockdown areas, the rule of six applies indoors in Wales but is limited to people from four different households. 

The rule of six in Wales applies only to children 11 and over.

Travel

In the Welsh local lockdown areas travel to another area is banned unless an individual can provide a 'reasonable excuse'. This can include going to school or work.

If the individual cannot provide a reasonable excuse they can be fined and prosecuted by the courts.

Pubs and Restaurants

Pubs and restaurants must close at 10pm and can provide table service only.

Schools

Schools are unaffected by the Welsh local lockdowns. All children over 11 are advised to wear masks in indoor public areas.

Work

The Welsh local lockdowns do not affect the rules on working from home. The Welsh government advises employees to work from home wherever possible and should not return to the work place unless there is a 'clearly demonstrated' need for them to do so.

Masks

The Welsh government legally requires face masks in indoor public places for all people over the age of 11.

Weddings and funerals

Attendees at Welsh weddings and funerals are required to wear face masks. This includes the bride and groom who can remove their masks to kiss.

There is no limit on the size of the ceremonies. Receptions and wakes are limited to 30 people.

Sport

Organised outdoor outdoor sport is allowed but 'social disatncing must be maintained at all times and particiapnts are limited to 30 people.

Gyms and leisure centres can remain open but users must wear masks when not performing strenuous exercise. Indoor sports that cannot be socially distanced are banned.

Cycling is allowed but only within the boundary of the local lockdown area.

The rest of Wales

Other areas in Wales have so far managed to steer clear of new restrictions but are still subject to the Welsh rules.

How do the rules differ from England?

Social gatherings

The rule of six applies indoors in Wales but is limited to people from four different households. However people are allowed to gather in groups of thirty outdoors - including in private gardens.

The rule of six in Wales applies only to children 11 and over.

Travel

People from the rest of Wales are not allowed to travel into the local lockdown areas unless they have a 'reasonable excuse'

They are allowed to go on holiday or travel for other 'legitimate' reasons.

Pubs and Restaurants

Pubs and restaurants must close at 10pm and can provide table service only

Schools 

All children over 11 are advised to wear masks in indoor public areas.

Work

The Welsh government advises employees to work from home wherever possible and should not return to the work place unless there is a 'clearly demonstarted' need for them to do so.

Masks

The Welsh government requires face masks in indoor public places for all people over the age of 11.

Weddings and funerals

Attendees at Welsh weddings and funerals are required to wear face masks. This includes the bride and groom who can remove their masks to kiss.

There is no limit on the size of the ceremonies. Receptions and wakes are limited to 30 people.

Sport

Organised outdoor outdoor sport is allowed but 'social distancing must be maintained at all times and participants are limited to 30 people.

Gyms and leisure centres can remain open but users must wear masks when not performing strenuous exercise. Indoor sports that cannot be socially distanced are banned.   

Scotland

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last week took the Covid-19 response a step further in Scotland, proving to be moving more cautiously than neighbouring England once again. Areas in lockdown north of the border are:

How do the rules differ from England?

Social gatherings

The rule of six applies indoors and outdoors in Scotland, but it also has a limit of individuals from two households. 

Residents of Scotland are not allowed to host people from outside their own household in their own homes. They can host people in their garden but must abide by the above rule of six.    

Pubs and Restaurants

People are allowed to meet in pub beer gardens - six people from a maximum of two households. They close at 10pm.

Travel

Same as England.

Schools

Face masks are mandatory in communal areas of secondary schools. 

Work

Everyone who can work from home should do. Non-essential offices and call centres should not yet re-open.

Masks

People have to wear face coverings in: aquariums, indoor zoos or visitor farms, and any other indoor tourist, heritage or cultural site, banks, building societies and credit unions, cinemas, community centres, crematoriums and funeral directors, libraries, museums and galleries, places of worship, post offices, storage and distribution facilities, including collection and drop off points, bingo halls, casinos, bowling alleys, amusement arcades and other leisure facilities (such as snooker and pool halls), indoor funfairs, indoor fitness studios, gyms, swimming pools or other indoor leisure centres, indoor skating rinks.

Sport 

People can take part in organized outdoor sport. Indoors, contact sports are not allowed and social distancing must be maintained.  

Weddings and Funerals

Weddings, civil partnership ceremonies and funerals should have no more than 20 people indoors or outdoors. 

North West

Twenty-six other areas in the North are subject to some restrictions. The affected areas are:

Social gatherings

People are not allowed to host people from outside their own household or support bubble in their houses or garden. 

The police will be able to take action against those who break these rules, including asking people to disperse and issuing fixed penalty notices starting at £200 for those who participate in illegal gatherings. (£100 if paid within 14 days).

While the rules do not ban people from meeting under the rule of six in pubs or restaurants, the government has issued advice that states  residents should not 'socialise with people you do not live with'. It also advises against visiting care home residents.     

Pubs and Restaurants

Pubs and restaurants must shut at 10pm. The guidelines advise that social contact with other households should be avoided in, restaurants, cafes, shops, places of worship, community centres, leisure and entertainment venues, or visitor attractions and parks. But it is not banned. 

Travel

Within most of the North West lockdown public transport is restricted to 'essential trips', be it work or school or looking after an elderly relative. Going outside the area is also restricted to 'essential' reasons.

But this is not law, this is just government advice so it is left to people to judge for themselves what is essential. 

The Greater Manchester area is exempt, apart from Oldham where residents have been instructed to avoid using public transport and instead walk or cycle where they can.

Listing acceptable reasons for locals to catch a bus, train or tram, the government website includes: to get to and from work; to get essential food or medical supplies including click and collect services; to support someone who is vulnerable, if no one else can do so; to travel to and from the homes of others in your support bubble; to attend an early years setting, school or college, or to accompany a child who is attending an early years setting, school or college, where necessary; to fulfil legal obligations; to seek medical care, or avoid illness, injury or harm. 

Residents can still go on holiday wherever they choose - subject to following the Foreign Office travel guidance - as long as they only go with people in their bubble.

Schools

Face masks are required for school pupils in Year 7 or above in communal areas in areas. 

Work

Same as rest of England.

Masks

Same as rest of England. 

Sport

Same as rest of England. 

Weddings and Funerals

Same as rest of England. 

West Midlands

Britain's second largest city and three surrounding areas were placed into a local lockdown two weeks ago amid concerns the restrictions will spread to other regions.

Social gatherings

People are not allowed to host people from outside their own household or support bubble in their houses or garden. 

Meeting outside and in pubs is allowed but only under the rule of six.  

Pubs and Restaurants 

Pubs and restaurants must shut at 10pm.  

Travel

If you live in the affected area, you can travel outside them. But you must not meet people you do not live with in their home or garden, whether inside or outside of the affected areas, unless they are in your support bubble.

Schools

Face masks are required for school pupils in Year 7 or above in communal areas in areas. 

Work

Same as the rest of England. 

Masks

Same as the rest of England. 

Sport

Same as the rest of England. 

Weddings and Funerals

Same as the rest of England. 

Covid situation

Coronavirus cases are on the rise across Birmingham, with 12,995 pupils and 714 teachers back home self-isolating. 

112 of the city's schools have seen infections since reopening to students at the start of this month.

Leicester

The Department of Health and Social Care yesterday tweaked the rules in place for Leicester's localised lockdown, with the changes also applying to:

Social gatherings 

People are not allowed to host people from outside their own household or support bubble in their houses or garden. 

Meeting outside and in pubs is allowed but only under the rule of six.  

Leicester is the only area in the country that has had to remain under addition measures since the rest of the country was lifted from lockdown on July 4.

Vulnerable residents have been told to remain shielding until October 5.

After this date formal shielding will be paused in the area, and Leicester City Council will take over advising the local population on what to do.

Pubs and Restaurants

Same as the rest of England. 

Travel

Same as the rest of England. 

Schools

Face masks are required for school pupils in Year 7 or above in communal areas in areas. Parents have been asked to wear masks on the school run. 

Work

Same as the rest of England. 

Masks

Same as the rest of England. 

Sport

Same as the rest of England. 

Weddings and Funerals

Same as the rest of England.  

Are there any loopholes?

Despite vast swathes of England, Scotland and Wales being under some form of local lockdown, there are some loopholes people could exploit.

Get a pint after 10pm

Punters can still get their hands on a draft pint after 10pm if they use establishments at motorway services because they are classed as an essential service.

The Hope and Champion is a Wetherspoon at Beaconsfield Services on the M40, in Buckinghamshire is one pub that can still legally serve after the curfew lasting until 5am. It provides food and drink for those on the roads, so now remains open later than other pubs.

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