More than two-thirds of England’s population will be living under Tier 3 restrictions from Saturday following Thursday’s announcement which saw just two areas brought out of the most severe coronavirus tiers.
The government dashed hopes of those in the north of an easing of restrictions and also put large areas of southern and eastern England into the top tier.
Mr Hancock told MPs he regretted having to impose the curbs but “there is a strong view right across Government that these actions are necessary”.
His move sparked anger across the country as those in areas moved into Tier 3 questioned the decision, while those in the north face a continuation of what has been months under the most severe restrictions.
The tier changes also come despite plans to continue with a relaxation of the rules over Christmas, despite fears from health experts that the move will cause a spike in cases.
The changes mean a total of 38 million people will be living in Tier 3 from Saturday – 68% of the population of England.
Under Tier 3 conditions pubs and restaurants can only offer takeaway or delivery services and indoor entertainment venues are shut.
Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Peterborough, Hertfordshire, Surrey (with the exception of Waverley), Hastings and Rother (on the Kent border of East Sussex), and Portsmouth, Gosport and Havant in Hampshire will all move into Tier 3.
The only move to lower tiers came in Bristol and North Somerset, which will move from Tier 3 to Tier 2, and Herefordshire will go down to Tier 1 - although the county’s public health director raised concerns about the relaxation of measures there.
Tory MP Stephen McPartland said it was “ridiculous” and “totally unacceptable” that his Stevenage seat was “being dragged into Tier 3”.
Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers and a Greater Manchester MP, questioned what more the region could do to get out of Tier 3.
He said: “The statement will be greeted with dismay in Greater Manchester where we have had severe restrictions for nine months – where in nine of the 10 boroughs rates are below the national average.”
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