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Thousands more brace for Tier 3 lockdown restrictions
26 October 2020, 05:09 | Updated: 26 October 2020, 15:33
Hundreds of thousands more people are preparing for the imposition of toughest coronavirus restrictions as talks continue between the Government and local leaders.
Parts of Nottinghamshire look set to be the next to enter the highest Tier 3 alert level in England after discussions carried on through the weekend.
Local politicians have indicated that they expect the new measures could come into force as early as Wednesday.
The council in Warrington in Cheshire has already said it will be joining Tier 3 on Thursday.
Downing Street has said discussions are still "ongoing".
The moves come amid warnings from some scientists that existing measures will not be enough to curb the the rapid growth in infections in large parts of the country.
The head of the Office for National Statistics Professor Sir Ian Diamond said it was too early to say the spread of the disease was slowing, despite some positive signs in the latest data.
The Government said a further 151 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Sunday, bringing the UK total to 44,896, and there had been a further 19,790 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number in the UK to 873,800.
Over the weekend, South Yorkshire became the latest region to come under the Tier 3 controls following Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester and Lancashire.
Meanwhile, the Welsh Government has said it will review a controversial ban on supermarkets selling non-essential items during a two-week "firebreak" lockdown which began on Friday.
Much of the negotiations between councils in England and Whitehall has been around the financial support packages for the areas affected as well as the detailed local controls.
Going into Tier 3 means pubs and bars have to close unless they serve meals while households are banned from mixing indoors or in private gardens and beer gardens.
Local leaders have repeatedly complained that the cash on offer from ministers is not enough to compensate for the businesses forced to shut their doors and the consequent loss of jobs.
The Government however insists that the latest furlough scheme announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, and the support available, is amongst the most generous in the world.
At the same time, the Government is facing increasing criticism that the NHS Test and Trace service, which was supposed to be the key to controlling the disease is failing.
Senior Conservative MP Sir Bernard Jenkin issued a call at the weekend for the head of the organisation - Tory peer Baroness Harding - to be sacked and replaced by a military commander.
In a scathing attack, he said there was a "vacuum of leadership" at the top which was "destroying cooperation and compliance" by the public.
He was backed by Labour which said that Lady Harding's position had become "untenable" after the latest weekly figures showed fewer than 60% of the contacts of people testing positive for Covid-19 had been traced and told to self-isolate.
Ministers have acknowledged the service needs to improve but insist that Lady Harding has done "a very good job".
However it emerged that officials on the Covid-19 taskforce were looking at the possibility of easing the rules for people ordered to self-isolate after coming into contact with someone the disease because of the low levels of compliance.
Ministers confirmed they were looking at reducing the time that people have to quarantine at home from 14 day to between 10 days and a week.
Sources said the move reflected concerns people were failing to respond when they were contacted by the system because of fears they could face a lengthy period locked up at home if they did.