United Kingdom

More than 60% of Wales' population will be in lockdown from tomorrow

Nearly 60 per cent of the Welsh population will be put under coronavirus lockdown from tomorrow after three more council areas are added to the government's list.

Some 362 new cases of coronavirus have been reported in Wales in the last 24 hours alone bringing the total to 22,945 - but no new deaths. 

Neath Port Talbot, Torfaen and the Vale of Glamorgan will be covered by the rules, which mean people will not be able to enter or leave the areas without a reasonable excuse from 6pm on Monday.

They will not be able to meet indoors with anyone they do not live with, with extended households suspended. 

Nearly 60 per cent of the Welsh population will be put under coronavirus lockdown from tomorrow after three more council areas are added to the government's list. Pictured: First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford

The announcement comes just hours before local lockdown restrictions come into force in Cardiff and Swansea, Wales' two biggest cities, on Sunday evening.

Further measures were also introduced in Llanelli, in Carmarthenshire, on Saturday evening.

Restrictions are already in place in Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Caerphilly, Merthyr Tydfil, Newport, and Rhondda Cynon Taf.

It means more than 1.8 million people in Wales - nearly 60 per cent the population - will be under local lockdowns from Monday night.

In other coronavirus news: 

On Saturday, there were a further 370 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Wales. 

Wales's First Minister Mark Drakeford said in a statement: 'Following a worrying rise in cases of coronavirus across South Wales, we took action on Friday to introduce local coronavirus restrictions in Llanelli and local restrictions will come into force in our two largest cities - Cardiff and Swansea - tonight.

'We are now taking further action and placing three more areas under local restrictions in South Wales - Neath Port Talbot, Torfaen, and the Vale of Glamorgan - because we are seeing rising rates in these three areas. These areas also share borders with local authority areas where rates are much higher.

'Introducing restrictions in any parts of Wales is always an incredibly difficult decision for us to make. But we're acting to protect people's health and to try and break the chain of transmission and stop the situation from getting worse.

'This is not a regional lockdown - this is a series of local restrictions in each local authority area to respond to a specific rise in cases in each area, which have distinct and unique chains of transmission.

Cars at a drive-thru coronavirus testing station at Ebbw Vale in Wales. The latest restrictions mean more than 1.8 million people in Wales - nearly 60 per cent the population - will be under local lockdowns from Monday night

'In some places, such as Caerphilly and Newport, we have seen really positive falls in response and we hope they can begin to be relaxed if they continue.

'It's really important everyone follows the rules where they live. We need everyone's help to bring coronavirus under control. We need everyone to pull together and to follow the measures which are there to protect you and your loved ones.' 

News of the restrictions comes the day after hoards of revellers flocked to streets up and down the country in their droves after bars and pubs kicked them out at 10pm. 

Vast swathes of Saturday-night drinkers were seen downing pints on empty roads in Soho, London, while others rushed to buy alcohol from off-licences in Leeds after the newly-imposed rules meant venues shut early.

Meanwhile, a huge queue of people formed outside Tesco Express in Portsmouth, Hampshire, as many opted to keep the night going with cans and bottles bought from the supermarket.

Booze-fuelled crowds also gathered at the popular Harbourside area in Bristol, on the streets of nightlife-hotspot Newcastle and in student-heavy city York.

The Deltapoll survey suggests that a majority of people – 51 per cent – think the impact on the economy is the greatest problem facing the UK over the next year

In Liverpool, mask-free rulebreakers gathered in a large crowd on the street, jumping and chanting in an impromptu party. Scenes in Liverpool prompted the city's mayor to slam the curfew as 'simply making things worse not better'.

The influx of merry partygoers heightened the risk of spreading the virus even more as they crammed together on public transport - after Uber fares surged by 2.6 per cent due to increased demand in London.

The shocking pictures come as Professor Mark Woolhouse from the University of Edinburgh - who sits on the Government's Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M) - said a third wave of infections next year is 'entirely possible'.

He warned Britain will have to live with the virus until 'some kind of cavalry' comes to the nation's rescue in the form of a vaccine or rapid testing and said he is 'doubtful' a jab will be ready for mass roll-out in six months. 

The Prime Minister's decision to impose the 10pm curfew to avoid a potential second wave has been hit by criticism after it was revealed the move was not advocated by Sage - the panel of scientific experts chaired by Sir Patrick Vallance.

Sage members are said to be increasingly frustrated that they are being overruled while simultaneously being scapegoated for the harsher measures, according to the Daily Telegraph.

A former World Health Organisation director, Professor Karol Sikora, also highlighted concerns, saying: 'Where is the evidence? Closing a little early will just hurt so many business owners.'

Sage scientists are reportedly calling on the Government to release their advice to exonerate them from any part in mooting a pub curfew.  

Concerns about the potential impact on businesses appear to be echoed by the rest of the population as a Mail on Sunday poll found  voters are now more worried about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy than they are over the collective health of the nation.

The Deltapoll survey suggests that a majority of people – 51 per cent – think the impact on the economy is the greatest problem facing the UK over the next year, compared to 42 per cent who worry about the effects on health.

When asked about the impact over the next five years, the gap widens, with 66 per cent citing the economy and just 28 per cent mentioning health.

And an overwhelming 89 per cent are concerned about the impact of Covid restrictions - including the 10pm curfew on business - with just 8 per cent saying they are unconcerned.

The results suggest there is growing support for the position of Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who has argued in Cabinet against 'doves' such as Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove who want more stringent restrictions. 

A huge queue of people formed outside Tesco Express in Portsmouth, Hampshire, as many opted to keep the night going with cans and bottles bought from a supermarket

Crowds of people also took to the streets of Brighton city centre after pubs shut at 10pm on Saturday night

Groups of revellers out in Soho, London last night as Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there had been an 'acceleration of Covid-19 cases across the country' 

A senior MP today revealed that Boris Johnson abandoned his plans for a second national lockdown over fears Rishi Sunak could quit as rift claims deepen.

Mr Sunak warned the economic impact caused by a second national lockdown would make his job near impossible.

He argued to keep Britain open to protect millions of jobs and businesses despite medical and scientific experts wanting tougher restrictions to stop the spread of the virus, The Sun reported.

In York, huge crowds gathered on the street to keep the party going after venues serving food and drink shut at 10pm

Police officers were on patrol ahead of closing time in Soho, London, after pubs and restaurants were subject to a 10pm curfew to combat the rise in coronavirus cases

The Chancellor has introduced a number of measures to save jobs and businesses throughout the pandemic, including the Job Retention Scheme and Eat Out To Help Out. 

A senior MP said: 'There were fears he would find it difficult to carry on if he was ignored.

'It was all down to the Chancellor that we avoided delivering a hammer blow to the economy and took a more balanced approach instead. Rishi saved the day.'

Yesterday, Mr Sunak's deputy swatted away suggestions of a rift between the Chancellor and Mr Johnson over the Government's coronavirus strategy.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Stephen Barclay insisted both men were working 'in tandem' and denied Numbers 10 and 11 were adopting different approaches.

On Thursday Mr Sunak said the nation needed to learn to 'live without fear', just days after the Prime Minister tightened coronavirus laws amid a steep rise in cases.

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