NEARLY a fifth of England will be under the toughest coronavirus restrictions after West Yorkshire became the latest area to be placed in Tier 3.
West Yorkshire will move into Tier 3 (very high) restrictions from Monday, with council leaders in the region saying they had negotiated a financial package worth an additional £59.3 million.
It will take the total number of people in the highest level of restrictions to just over 11 million – 19.6% of the population.
It adds to the mounting pressure to impose a national lockdown as the number of coronavirus cases and patients in hospital continues to climb.
The NHS Test and Trace system recorded its highest-ever weekly number of positive cases while a study by Imperial College London found almost 100,000 people are catching Covid-19 every day.
Experts are suggesting a more national approach is needed to address the soaring infection rate as opposed to the three-tier system and Home Secretary Priti Patel said the Government would not rule anything out.
As France enters a second lockdown from Friday and Germany imposes a four-week partial lockdown, there is pressure on the UK Government to be “tougher and quicker” in its response.
The latest data from the test and trace system shows that a total of 126,065 people tested positive for Covid-19 at least once in the week to October 21 – a 23% increase on the previous week and the highest weekly number since the programme began at the end of May.
The Government said on Thursday that a further 280 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 and there had been 23,065 more lab-confirmed cases in the UK.
New data from NHS England also showed the number of hospital beds in England occupied by confirmed coronavirus patients had more than doubled in two weeks from 4,105 on October 13 to 8,595 on Tuesday.
Asked if she would rule out another national lockdown, Ms Patel said: “I think at this stage, of course, we can rule nothing out because we are a Government that is focused on making sure that we stop the spread of this virus and also (that) we protect public health.
“So we have been using, and we are using and we will continue to use, every single means available to us to do exactly that.”
Earlier, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said the Government will “try everything in our power” to avoid a “blanket national lockdown”.
He said the Government’s “very firm view” is that a short national “circuit-breaker” lockdown would be the wrong approach, saying “you can’t have a stop-start country”.
While West Yorkshire will move up to Tier 3, the Department of Health and Social Care also said more than a dozen regions will move from the lowest to the middle tier of restrictions on Saturday.
These include East Riding of Yorkshire, Kingston-Upon-Hull, North East Lincolnshire, North Lincolnshire, Dudley, Staffordshire, Telford, the Wrekin, Amber Valley, Bolsover, Derbyshire Dales, Derby City, South Derbyshire, the whole of High Peak, Charnwood, Luton and Oxford.
Meanwhile, local authority sources in the West Midlands said the “very high” restrictions level – Tier 3 – could be imposed “by the end of next week or the start of the following week”.
The latest weekly surveillance report from Public Health England showed that Covid-19 case rates in England were rising for all age groups except 10 to 19 year-olds.
The highest rates are currently among 20 to 29-year-olds at 333.2 cases per 100,000 people in the week to October 25, up from 306.6 in the previous seven days.
For people aged 70-79 the rate was 110.0, up from 88.0, while for people aged 80 and over it rose from 125.6 to 156.7.
Government scientific adviser Dr Mike Tildesley has said more national restrictions are needed, with the current trajectory likely to put nearly everywhere in Tier 2 before Christmas.
The University of Warwick researcher, who sits on the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We are seeing the R number is greater than one everywhere.
“In a sense, some kind of national lockdown, a circuit-breaker or something along those lines, would actually have more effect in those parts of the country that have not yet progressed into Tier 2.
“R is greater than one everywhere and if we don’t take urgent action, we’re most likely to see that as we’re approaching the festive period, we’re probably going to be at least in Tier 2 pretty much everywhere in the country.
“We need to move away from these regional firefighting techniques to try to move to something more national.”
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis is self-isolating after recently coming into contact with someone who has since tested positive for the virus.
In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said a new tiered system of restrictions will come into force at 6am on Monday.
The central belt, Dundee, Inverclyde and Ayrshire will be placed into Level 3; Aberdeenshire, Fife, the Borders, Dumfries and Galloway will be in Level 2; and the Highlands and much of the Islands will be in Level 1.