Boris Johnson has warned of a potential third lockdown in the new year if curbs on mixing were eased now.
The prime minister gave the warning as it was revealed that almost 99 per cent of England’s population will go into the tougher levels next week, with just 1.27 per cent set to enjoy tier 1 freedoms.
More than half of the population - 32,226,170 people, or 57.25 per cent of the total - will enter tier 2 on 2 December, said No 10. And around four in 10 English residents - 41.48 per cent, totalling 23,347,218 people - will be under the toughest tier 3 controls.
Only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly - accounting for little over 1 per cent of England's population - face the lightest tier 1 restrictions.
Large swathes of the Midlands, northeast and northwest are in the most restrictive tier 3, but the majority of people - including London - will be in tier 2.
Mr Johnson said: "I'm sorry to confirm that from Wednesday most of England will be in the top two tiers, with the toughest measures.
"And I know that this will bring a great deal of heartache and frustration, especially for our vital hospitality sector."