Six million more people in England are ready to face Tier 3 lockdown restrictions in spiraling coronavirus cases this week as Number 10 continues to rely on its "whack-a-mole" strategy to contain the disease.
Residents of the West Midlands, Northeast and West Yorkshire are expected to be the next to be dragged into the toughest string of measures prohibiting people from being in touch with family or friends, and forcing pubs to be entirely to close unless they serve "large meals".
This means that by the weekend, 14 million people across England could live under the toughest curbs that control the coronavirus. There are currently 8 million people living in third tier cities and boroughs in Greater Manchester, Liverpool, Lancashire and Nottinghamshire.
Nottingham became the first tier-three county last night to agree to a ban on the sale of alcohol after 9 p.m. when alcohol is bought for off-site consumption. There are fears that this has set a precedent and that other regions may be forced to adhere to restrictions beyond the standard third stage measures.
West Yorkshire leaders have denied that they are in a "stalemate" with Number 10 over plans to put 1.8 million people in the area under tier-three lockdown. Bradford Councilor Susan Hinchcliffe insisted that the crunch talks were not a dead end, despite rumbling on for three days with little progress.
West Yorkshire faces stricter restrictions after routine NHS operations at one of England's largest trusts in Leeds were canceled when Covid-19 patients in wards hit higher levels than they did in April / May.
In the West Midlands, Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton, which are already in Tier 2, could be upgraded to a tougher group in a matter of days, provided infection rates don't drop rapidly.
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street and the leaders of the seven councilors discussed the prospect of Stage Three with Health Secretary Matt Hancock yesterday ahead of a Gold Command meeting.
After the meeting, local authorities said it was "fairly unlikely" that infection rates would drop enough in the next few days and that Tier Three would be imposed "at the end of next week or early next week".
Political leaders in the northeast are due to meet on Thursday afternoon to discuss whether the region should be placed in the highest category of action. The move would affect the Tier 2 counties of Northumberland, Newcastle, Sunderland, North and South Tyneside, Gateshead and County Durham. The executives there have previously opposed a Tier 3 upgrade, claiming that the coronavirus cases have stabilized and the NHS can handle this on the ground.
All of Nottinghamshire will move into stage three restrictions on Friday after a crisis meeting between ministers and local leaders, it has been confirmed. Bristol is also moving to Tier Plus One while West Yorkshire is negotiating Tier Three
Bradford Labor Councilor Susan Hinchcliffe and other West Yorkshire executives have refused to accept the toughest embargo until they are assured of what support will be offered to businesses.
But she said the "unwavering" government had told the council presidents that it was a "package of proposals" with no room for negotiation.
Ms. Hinchcliffe, who is also chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, told BBC Radio 4 Today this morning that she would not call it a "stand-off".
She added that it was unclear what support would be offered to companies in the event of a move to the senior level, but the government had told Council Presidents that it would be a "package of templates" with no room for negotiation.
She said: "From our conversations so far, it appears that the government is relentlessly determined to get Bradford and West Yorkshire into Tier 3. Our residents and our local businesses need reassurance as to whether or not we are going to get Tier 3."
Tracy Brabin, Labor MP for Batley and Spen, said on Twitter, “There is a lack of transparency on the part of the government about how we enter / exit Tier 3 and it is unfair for everyone living in West Yorkshire to be left in the dark is this. I pushed the government to show us that they follow science. & # 39;
The political debate is taking place against the backdrop of a dramatic increase in hospital admissions for Covid-19. The NHS figures show the Yorkshire and Humber area with the fastest growing rates in England.
Earlier this week, the Trust, which operates Leeds General Infirmary and St. James & # 39; s Hospital, announced that only essential surgeries will be performed after the number of Covid-19 patients treated has exceeded the number that is on was treated at the height of the first wave of the virus. Other hospitals, including Bradford Royal Infirmary, have reported similar numbers.
The latest official statement on Wednesday night's West Yorkshire Combined Authority talks said: “The latest data on infections and hospital admissions shows a continued increase, and we have reiterated our calls to the government that further local action is needed, including increasing community engagement and test and trace.
& # 39; There will be further talks with the government in the coming days. We are determined to implement the most effective measures to protect the people and the economy in West Yorkshire. & # 39;
In the meantime, political leaders in the northeast said they would oppose any attempt by the government to impose a third stage lockdown on the region.
Council presidents and business figures say infection rates are flattening out under the current tier two rules. In a statement on Monday, local authorities said: “We are still committed to additional support for all those companies that are doing their best to operate in a Covid-safe manner in these difficult times, without going to the third tier to have to change.
“We will continue to advocate a more local testing and traceability approach that allows us to leverage the local expertise and knowledge of our communities, and we will work closely with the police to seek more resources and support to enforce the guidelines.
“We don't want stricter restrictions placed on our Tier Three residents, and we will oppose any attempt by the government to do so. This would have an even greater impact on our economy and our wellbeing. & # 39;