Millions of people will tomorrow learn of fresh coronavirus curbs with a three-tier system putting regions on medium, high, or very high alert as cases continue to soar.
Boris Johnson hosts a Cobra meeting of senior health chiefs and top ministers on Monday morning before announcing England’s three-tier system to the Commons.
The system will be called Local Covid Alert Levels with England placed into “medium”, “high” and “very high” alert levels.
There is no detail yet on which area of England will be placed in which tier.
The Prime Minister will later address the nation live from Downing Street, flanked by Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty.
Millions of people could be banned from travelling outside their areas or mixing indoors with other households.
Some local bosses want to close pubs but not restaurants, but were said to be rowing over whether pubs selling food should be included.
On Monday morning, Prof Whitty’s deputy Jonathan Van-Tam and senior health officials will outline grim details of how the virus is spreading across the country.
The UK recorded 12,872 new cases on Sunday, with the death toll rising by 65 to 42,825.
Prof Van-Tam is expected to highlight increased hospital admissions and infection rates in the worst-hit areas as he prepares viewers for the PM’s address unveiling curbs later.
MPs will be asked to debate and vote on the measures later this week.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “Our primary focus has always been to protect lives and livelihoods while controlling the spread of the virus, and these measures will help achieve that aim.
“We must do everything we can to protect the NHS and make sure it can continue to deliver the essential services that so many people rely on.
“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.”
Oxford University’s Professor Peter Horby (CORR), who chairs the Government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threat Advisory Group, said hospitals were under increasing pressure.
He said: “We are already seeing in some parts of the North that some hospitals are starting to see the pressure.
“We have a doubling time of about eight to 15 days so it is not long before those ICU (intensive care unit) beds could be full and we could be in a really difficult situation.
“I am afraid we are going to have to make some very difficult choices and act very quickly.”
He feared a second national lockdown could be needed, telling the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show: “I think that’s a possibility and we have to do what we can to avoid that at all costs.”
The PM has been forced to act as the disease tightens its grip as Britain heads towards winter.
He called an emergency Cabinet meeting on Sunday, with ministers dialling in from their London homes and constituencies around the UK.
He also spoke with Liverpool City Region metro mayor Steve Rotheram, as the area prepares to be hit with the toughest restrictions.
Local leaders, senior No10 advisers and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick also held discussions with council chiefs in areas where the disease has spiralled out of control.
Downing Street was keen to highlight engagement with regional leaders after a weekend of mounting criticism.
Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese said there was a “large gulf” in discussions about new restrictions.
He told Times Radio: “We seem to have an almost impossible task of penetrating the Westminster bubble.”
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Reynolds, MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, Gtr Manchester, warned: “There is resentment, to be frank – there is resentment about the North/South divide in some of these local restrictions and you can see that coming across.
“Unless the Prime Minister gets a grip of this, it will get even more difficult.”
As fears grew of an expansion of local lockdowns last week, the Chancellor announced a new version of the furlough scheme.
The Government will pay two thirds of each worker’s salary up to a maximum of £2,100 a month.
But it will only apply to businesses legally forced to close by fresh rules.
Firms which can stay open but whose trade is battered by the knock-on effect of curbs, such as food suppliers hit by a drop in demand if restaurants are ordered to close, will not benefit.
Local leaders pleaded for more help for employees and companies set to be hit clobbered.
Greater Manchester Metro Mayor Andy Burnham demanded ministers increase the two-thirds wage support for shutdown businesses to the 80% of wages paid by the state in March.
“If there is to be any form of lockdown, it has to come with the same support that was provided earlier this year,” he insisted.
“This is people’s lives, this is people’s business, this is the future of our region. If you expect us to go quiet and accept our fate … we’re not going to do that.”
Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson said: “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’re not going to allow them to do that.
“Let me make this absolutely clear, the people in the North West won’t stay on their knees and tolerate the Government that is actually dictating in a way that is going to damage our economy for many, many years to come.”
Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy, MP for Wigan, told the BBC: “What we really want is for the Government to come forward with a package of financial support that enables people to comply with the health restrictions.
“People are being told that they’re going to have to exist on 67% of their wages despite not having a job to go to, but they’re having to pay 100% of their rent and bills.”
Brushing off calls to make the new furlough scheme more generous, Cabinet Minister Mr Jenrick told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “We can’t do everything, there is a limit to what the state can do here.”
He confirmed a plan for town halls to be handed beefed-up powers over the shambolic test and trace system.
He added: “We are going to be ensuring that the national testing infrastructure works in harmony with what’s happening locally because local councils and local communities are very good at contact tracing, understandably, because they know their communities.”
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