Nottingham – with a population of 330,000 – and Warrington will join the Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and South Yorkshire in Tier 3, meaning almost eight million people will be living under England’s strictest set of Covid rules.

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said: “Infection rates are rising in Warrington, and we have agreed with local leaders that it’s time to take action.

“I know that these new measures will mean sacrifices must be made by the people in Warrington, and I want to extend my thanks to each and every one of them for recognising the severity of the situation and sticking to the rules.

“We have agreed a support package designed to help businesses while boosting efforts to control the virus locally, and will not hesitate to take similar action in any area of the country if infection rates continue to rise.

“Please remember – now is the time for us all to work together to get this virus under control.”

In an interview on Monday, Mr Hancock said areas under Tier 3 restrictions would have to prove that their infection rate was “coming down”, especially among those aged 60 or over, before they could be removed from the strictest measures.

He has also refused to rule out bringing in a tougher set of Tier 4 rules following reports that another level is being considered to tackle England’s rise in virus infections.

Asked about the criteria for an area to exit Tier 3, Mr Hancock told the BBC: “The first thing that’s most important is that the case rate has to be coming down. 

“In particular we look at the number of cases amongst the over-60s because that’s the number that is likely to translate into hospital admissions and, sadly, into deaths.”

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