More than a quarter of the UK population will be living under increased coronavirus restrictions this weekend, as new measures for Leeds, parts of Wales and towns in the North West of England have been announced.
The Government has confirmed local lockdowns will be introduced in areas including Yorkshire and the Humber, Wigan, Stockport, Leeds and Blackpool following a rise in coronavirus cases in the areas.
From 12.01am on Saturday, residents in the affected regions will no longer be allowed to mix with people outside their household or bubble in private homes, including gardens. They are also advised not to meet people outside their household or bubble in any setting – whether a bar, shop or leisure facility – indoors or outdoors.
The decision was taken after following discussions between local leaders, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, NHS Test and Trace, the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC), Public Health England (PHE) and the chief medical officer for England.
Mr Hancock said: “We continue to see an acceleration of Covid-19 cases across the country, especially in the North West and the North East. Working alongside our scientific and public health experts and local leaders, we are prepared to take swift and decisive action to reduce transmission of the virus and protect communities.
“I recognise the burden and impact these additional measures have on our daily lives but we must act collectively and quickly to bring down infections."
Blackpool Tory MP Scott Benton said the new measures will bring the seaside town in line with the rest of Lancashire. He said the infection rate had risen from 23 per 100,000 earlier this month to 63 per 100,000 on Wednesday.
In Wales, Cardiff and Swansea will go into local lockdown from 6pm on Sunday, the Welsh Government has confirmed. People will not be able to enter or leave the areas without a reasonable excuse. They will not be able to meet indoors with anyone they do not live with, with extended households suspended.
Restrictions are already in force across large swathes of north-west England, West Yorkshire, the North East and the Midlands, as well as parts of west Scotland
This means more than 17.5 million people across the UK will be living under additional coronavirus measures by Sunday evening.
In Leeds, council leader Judith Blake said she realised no-one welcomed the extra measures, adding: “The safety of the city and the public simply has to come first and we have now reached a point where we all need to take additional steps to contain the spread of this terrible virus within our communities.”
At an online news conference, reporters were told these measures were expected to be in place all winter.
Tom Riordan, Leeds City Council chief executive, said: “What we are trying to do is give a simple message – you shouldn’t really mix with other households.”
The latest seven-day Covid-19 rate in Leeds was found to be 98.5 per 100,000 people, with an 8.4 per cent positive test rate.
Meanwhile, London is being made an “area of concern” , according to London Councils, a cross-party organisation which represents all 32 boroughs and the City of London.
No additional measures will be taken in the city, but testing capacity will be boosted to closely monitor the growth of the virus.
London Councils urged residents to follow the new Government restrictions introduced on Thursday.
It said rising cases were a “stark reminder that now is time for all Londoners to pull together and take action to keep themselves, their families and their communities safe, and to ensure that London’s economy is protected”.