Plans to shut pubs and restaurants in larger parts of northern England to bring down soaring coronavirus rates have been agreed, according to reports.
The government said on Friday it was still considering what action to take, but Cabinet member Robert Jenrick warned of a “fast and serious situation” in the north, with COVID-19 rates spiking in Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle.
An interactive map which projects which areas likely to become COVID hotspots in coming days showed on Friday that there were no areas in England where case numbers are decreasing.
The website, run by Imperial College London, uses reported cases to estimate the probability of different regions becoming hotspots. A hotspot is defined as an area where weekly reported cases of coronavirus per 100,000 population exceed 50.
While the north of England is home to the most areas that have rising case rates, numbers can be seen to be increasing across the country.
Nottingham continues to have the highest rate in England, with 2,532 new cases recorded in the seven days to October 6 – the equivalent of 760.6 cases per 100,000 people, a huge jump from 158.3 per 100,000 in the seven days to September 29.
Knowsley on Merseyside has the second highest rate, which has leapt from 391.1 to 657.6, with 992 new cases.
Neighbouring Liverpool is in third place, where the rate has also increased sharply, from 419.0 to 599.9 with 2,988 new cases.
Other areas recording big jumps in their seven-day rates include Manchester (up from 421.6 to 524.7, with 2,901 new cases); Newcastle upon Tyne (up from 355.7 to 516.1, with 1,563 new cases); Exeter (up from 79.9 to 438.3, with 576 new cases); and Sheffield (up from 171.2 to 426.8, with 2,496 new cases).
So while rates are rising at a more rapid rate in the north, the south and south east are now seeing worrying upward trends too.
A graphic published by ONS on Friday showed the rate of increase in infections by region in England.
While areas in the north dominated the most dramatic increases, cases across the country could be seen to be rising.
What is being proposed?
According to reports, England could be divided into three tiers.
Tier one regions would continue with the existing rule of six and social distancing laws, while those in tier two would also have a ban on households mixing at home. In these areas, pubs have to shut at 10pm.
Tier three areas could have those restrictions, but with pubs and restaurants having to close indefinitely.
Where could the hospitality ban be brought in?
It is likely that pubs and restaurants would be shuttered across large parts of the north of England, where COVID-19 rates are continuing to cause alarm.
Of the ten areas with the highest rates per 100,000 people, only Nottingham is outside the north of England. Six of the top ten are in the North West.
What’s happened in Scotland?
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that from Friday most bars, restaurants and cafes will be banned from selling alcohol, for more than two weeks. However, she ruled out a ‘circuit breaker’ blanket lockdown for the country, promising that schools and public transport would stay open.
Why is it thought necessary?
The government is still considering plans and listening to medical and scientific experts, but the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said a “significant proportion of exposure to the virus” came from the hospitality sector, where younger people gather.
Watch: Coronavirus: Five of Europe's top COVID-19 hotspots are in the north of England
Does everyone agree?
Labour politicians in the north of England have reacted with anger to the leaked proposals, saying they have been floated in the media with no regional consultation, and they have stressed the need for support for the hospitality industry.
Do all the Conservative MPs agree with the plans?
Some rebels are unhappy with the 10pm closing time which is currently in place, apart from in Northern Ireland, saying it is counterproductive as drinkers all leave at the same time, and damaging to the night-time economy.
Others have said there should be a Commons debate before more restrictions are brought in.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has also said 10pm closing was not working.
The issue will be debated in Parliament on Tuesday.
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