Residents of Covid-19 hotspots will be told on Monday that they should not travel unless they have to as part of a new three-tier system of local restrictions applying across England.
The country will be divided into three zones – medium risk, high risk and very high risk – depending on their level and growth rate of infections.
Areas in the first tier will remain under roughly the same rules as are now in place nationwide, such as the Rule of Six and hospitality curfew.
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In the second tier, which is likely to include London and Birmingham, there will be some restrictions on households mixing. Local leaders have been told that the top tier will involve a total ban on socialising between households and the closure of pubs and bars.
New curbs on domestic travel
There are also understood to be new rules against travel: residents of “tier three” areas cannot stay outside their homes overnight, or leave they area without an essential reason to do so, while those from outside cannot visit overnight.
The exact details will differ between each individual hotspot following talks between No 10 and the local authorities.
A senior Government source said: “We are trying to work hand in hand with local leaders because that is what we think will work.”
North and Midlands hotspots
The status of “tier three” regions will be reviewed every four weeks. Merseyside is confirmed as one of the first areas to get the status along with Nottingham – where the case count now stands at 830 per 100,000, six times higher than Leicester’s infection rate when its local lockdown began – and Newcastle is also likely to join the list.
Leaders in Greater Manchester spent the weekend lobbying ministers to keep the city in “tier two”.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick suggested that schools, universities, offices and most shops would stay open in all areas regardless of rising infections, telling Sky News: “We’ve got to make difficult decisions and we’ve chosen to prioritise education and employment.”
Televised briefing and Commons announcement
On Monday morning Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, will give a televised briefing at No 10 alongside senior NHS officials where he will lay out the evidence behind the decision to tighten the restrictions.
Boris Johnson will announce the rules to the House of Commons in the afternoon, then lead a Downing Street press conference with Rishi Sunak and Chris Whitty. The Chancellor’s presence is designed to assure those affected that he will provide adequate financial support over the winter.
Replacing the existing framework of varying restrictions across the country with a more streamlined system is designed to make the rules simpler and easier to understand.
A No 10 spokesperson said: “This is a critical juncture and it is absolutely vital that everyone follows the clear guidance we have set out to help contain the virus.”
Leaders across the North have accused the Prime Minister of unfairly stigmatising the region and causing an economic disaster.
Sir Richard Leese, the leader of Manchester council, told Times Radio: “We seem to have an almost impossible task of penetrating the Westminster bubble.”
Five Labour MPs from Manchester wrote to Mr Johnson pointing out that many of the city’s cases have been linked to students and asking him to reconsider the decision to impose new rules on the population as a whole.
And William Wragg, the Conservative MP for Hazel Grove, said: “Talk of closing pubs, restaurants and cafes is misplaced, given that very limited transmission of Covid seems to take place there. It would be counterproductive to close them, if people were to then meet in each other’s homes, where transmission is much higher.”
Concern over financial impact
Other local leaders such as London’s Sadiq Khan and Andy Street of the West Midlands have focussed on lobbying the Government behind the scenes. Both men have been speaking directly to Matt Hancock in recent days and pushing for bepoke assistance in their areas.
Labour will seek to force a House of Commons vote on the support package for areas of England put under tougher local rules. Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy said the party supports “more restrictions coming in” to slow the spread of Covid-19 and will not seek to block the measures being announced.
But she warned that people left unable to work because of the new restrictions should be compensated.
Ms Nandy told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “We will try and frame the terms of a debate and vote in the House of Commons so that there is an opportunity to put forward an alternative support package.”
Northern leaders demand more support
Northern leaders have demanded additional financial support for workers in industries which are forced to shut down under the new Covid-19 restrictions.
Rishi Sunak has promised that the Government will pay two thirds of the salaries of anyone whose employer is legally barred from operating, starting from next month.
The Mayors of Greater Manchester, North of Tyne and the Liverpool and Sheffield city regions wrote a joint letter to MPs asking them to “seek to improve substantially the financial package on offer”.
They said the support should be more generous, faster and apply to sectors which are not legally forced to close but suffer disproportionately from the restrictions on socialising.
Joe Anderson, the Mayor of Liverpool, said: “It’s a no-brainer to make sure we actually support people… If this was in London we wouldn’t be talking about this. It’s because it’s the North-West they want to do it on the cheap and we are not going to allow them to do that.”
The Conservative leader of Bolton council, David Greenhalgh, said the Chancellor’s plans were “quite frankly unacceptable” and insisted the Treasury should fund 80 per cent of normal pay, as in the original furlough scheme.