Around 8.7 million people in England will be living under the highest level of coronavirus restrictions from Friday when the whole of Nottinghamshire becomes the latest area to enter Tier 3.
The Department of Health confirmed the county, comprising the eight districts of Ashfield, Bassetlaw, Broxtowe, Gedling, Mansfield, Newark and Sherwood, Nottingham and Rushcliffe, will move into the Tier 3 alert level from 0001 on Friday.
The announcement follows warnings from NHS bosses who have said hospitals in some parts of England are now treating more Covid-19 patients than at the peak of the pandemic.
Nottinghamshire will join Warrington as well as the Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and South Yorkshire in having fresh restrictions imposed in Tier 3.
West Yorkshire is also expected to face the toughest restrictions, but political leaders in the North East have argued against it, saying it would cause economic damage for “no reason”.
Tier 3 measures for the 684,013 people living in Nottingham, Broxtowe, Gedling and Rushcliffe have now been put back to 12.01am on Friday to accommodate the remaining 477,111 in the rest of Nottinghamshire.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We have seen infection rates rising sharply across Nottinghamshire, and in close collaboration with local leaders we have agreed on a package of local measures to stop this virus in its tracks.
“I understand how difficult life is under these restrictions and the impact they have on families and businesses, but we never take these decisions lightly.
“I want to thank local leaders for their continued support and to extend my gratitude to the people of Nottinghamshire who have shown real resilience, consistently working together to follow the rules and help bring down rates of infection.”
As part of the Tier 3 measures, people in Nottinghamshire have been informed they cannot purchase alcohol in shops after 9pm, but can buy it in pubs with a substantial meal until 10pm.
The local restrictions also say all hospitality venues can only remain open if they offer substantial meals, or move to a takeaway or delivery service.
Leisure and sporting facilities, including gyms, will be able to remain open in the region, but personal care settings such as tattoo parlours, tanning and nail salons, and piercing services will be forced to close.
The Government said a further 310 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Wednesday – bringing the UK total to 45,675.
They added that, as of 9am on Wednesday, there had been a further 24,701 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK – bringing the total number of cases in the UK to 942,275.
NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said hospitals in Liverpool, Lancashire and Nottingham are treating more coronavirus patients than they did in April – with the latter having to cancel four cancer operations due to “pressure on intensive care units”.
Prof Powis said: “Hospitals have local and regional plans in place to respond to additional demand, and the NHS has prepared carefully – we also have new life-saving treatments, better understand the oxygen treatments, and survival rates in intensive care have increased.
“We have a landmark deal with the independent sector and we have asked the Nightingales in the North to prepare to mobilise and be ready to care for patients when needed, with the Manchester Nightingale accepting patients.”
Some 25,000 people could be in hospital with the virus by the end of next month if cases continue to rise, the Government’s former chief scientific adviser has warned.
In Leeds, health officials said only essential operations will go ahead at hospitals in the city after the number of Covid-19 patients passed the totals treated at the peak of the first wave.
Nottingham University Hospitals Trust said pressure on intensive care units from Covid-19 and non-Covid related emergencies meant it also needed to postpone procedures while Airedale Hospital, near Keighley, West Yorkshire, said it is suspending non-urgent surgery for two weeks.
University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Trust added “some procedures and non inpatient activity will have to be postponed” to manage “large numbers of very sick patients” across its three main sites.
Overall in England there are 7,454 people in hospital with Covid-19.
The number in north-west England, as of October 26, stood at 2,407 – the highest since April 23 and not far below the peak of the first wave, which was 2,890 on April 13, while in north-east England and Yorkshire the latest total is 1,962, the highest since April 28.
Hospitals in Northern Ireland are treating more people with Covid-19 than during the first peak of the pandemic with official statistics revealing there are currently 360 inpatients – the highest in the first wave was 322 on April 8.
The October 26 data shows there were 1,052 people in hospital beds in Scotland with Covid-19 and 654 in Wales.
Professor Sir Mark Walport suggested the death toll will continue to increase as there are “still very many people that are vulnerable” and relatively few people have had Covid-19.
And Professor Neil Ferguson, whose modelling prompted the UK-wide lockdown in March, told the PA news agency that restrictions in Tier 2 and Tier 3 areas of England are “unlikely to cause daily cases and deaths to fall rapidly”.
He said modelling suggests this could leave the country with “high levels” of Covid cases, demand on healthcare and deaths “until spring 2021”.
A projection by Government scientists suggests the toll could remain high throughout the winter and result in more fatalities than in the spring, which have now topped 61,000.
Bristol’s mayor has said the city is implementing a series of measures it describes as “Tier 1 plus” to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
Marvin Rees described the situation in Bristol as “challenging”, with 1,579 cases reported over the past seven days and a rate of 340.7 cases per 100,000 people in the city.
If the measures do not work, the city will move into Tier 2 or 3, Mr Rees said.
As Nottinghamshire prepares to enter Tier 3, the North of Tyne elected mayor Jamie Driscoll said they had yet to hear a response from ministers about any decision for their region.
The Labour mayor told PA it was “notable” that main centres of infection were in “private homes, and then schools, universities, care homes and workplaces”, adding: “None of which are affected by Tier 3 lockdown. So Tier 3 would cause economic damage for no reason.
“North East leaders are very strongly resistant to Tier 3.”
He said local officials had spoken to the deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam and his team, who had accepted the number of cases in the North East had stabilised and that the NHS had the capacity to cope.