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Stoke-on-Trent, Coventry and Slough to enter Tier 2 restrictions
22 October 2020, 15:05 | Updated: 22 October 2020, 20:38
Stoke-on-Trent, Coventry and Slough are to move to Tier 2 restrictions after a significant rise in coronavirus cases in recent weeks.
The three areas will go into new restrictions at midnight on Saturday.
"The fight is not over and the virus continues to spread," Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs.
In a statement to the House of Commons, he highlighted a dramatic increase in the number of hospitalisations and deaths in the past week.
"This is a much more regional second wave," he added. "Which puts more pressure on areas like Liverpool and Lancashire."
The Health Secretary also confirmed that talks had begun with local leaders in Warrington and Nottingham over entering Tier 3 restrictions.
The North West Nightingale Hospital in Manchester will reopen today as hospitals become overwhelmed with virus patients.
Hospitals in Liverpool confirmed on Wednesday they were treating more Covid-19 patients than at the busiest period during the first wave.
On Thursday evening, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust's chief executive Tracy Taylor said the city's Queen's Medical Centre (QMC) has exceeded 200 patients with Covid-19 over the past few days - with numbers "increasing by nearly another full ward of people" every day.
Meanwhile in Greater Manchester, Chief Constable Ian Hopkins has said extra teams of officers will be out in towns and cities across the region to ensure compliance with Tier 3 restrictions which come into force tonight.
"We have got some that have just completely flouted the rules," he warned.
"There's one individual who is now up to £3,100 worth of fine and there's one house that has had eight fixed penalty notices issued to it."
Challenged by MPs over how he planned to balance tackling the virus with civil liberties and mental health problems, Mr Hancock explained how countries were "wrestling" with the issue.
"Like other liberal democracies around the world, we're wrestling with this question of how we keep people safe from the virus whilst at the same time protecting all the important things in life," he said.
"That is what leads us to this strategy of suppressing the virus, supporting the economy, education and the NHS needs to do all the other things that it needs to until the vaccine is available."
Responding to the statement, Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth admitted that it was too late to hold a national two-week 'circuit break' lockdown over October half-term.
The shadow health secretary said: "Now, I accept we've probably missed the window of opportunity now with... unless the Secretary of State or the minister of state is going to get up at the end of this debate and say actually, we're going to do a circuit-breaker over half-term next week - I accept the Government have probably missed that window of opportunity now.
"But at some point, they will have to take further action."
On Test and Trace, Mr Ashworth added that "the statistics have been bad every week".
A record low of 59.6% of contacts were traced by callers this week - 20% below what experts say is needed for the system to have any major impact on infections.
It follows an announcement by Rishi Sunak earlier on Thursday that businesses currently or formerly in Tier 2 restrictions will be eligible for up to £2,100 per month in support.