Large swathes of the Midlands will move into the toughest tier of coronavirus restrictions from tomorrow.
In a statement to the House of Commons today, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said almost all of both the West and East Midlands would now be moved into tier 4.
The central message is that people should stay at home unless absolutely necessary while many businesses will have to close.
The following local authority areas will move into tier 4 from tomorrow:
The following areas in the Midlands have all been placed in tier 3 – Herefordshire, Rutland, Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin and Worcestershire.
Large parts of the North East and North West have also been moved into tier 4.
Among the restrictions which will affect residents and businesses are that all non-essential retail, cinemas, theatres and leisure facilities must close.
Hospitality venues can offer takeaway only and mixing with other households should be limited to one other person outside.
Tier 3 restrictions include groups of no more than six meeting outside and weddings ceremonies can go ahead with up to 15 people.
The Government said the infection rate in the West Midlands had increased to 273.5 per 100,000 between December 18 and 24 which was a 23 per cent increase on the previous week.
In the East Midlands, it increased to 256.1 per 100,000, a climb of 17 per cent, while across England the weekly case rate rose to 402.6 per 100,000, a 32 per cent increase.
The NHS reports 14,915 patients have been admitted to hospital with covid-19 in the past week, an 18 per cent increase on the week before.
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Tier 3 and 4 areas will continue to be prioritised for community testing, with more than 100 local authorities now having signed up to the enhanced testing support programme.
Paul Faulkner, chief executive of Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, said the Government must introduce additional support now to save businesses and jobs as tier restrictions sweep across the region.
“We are dismayed at the continuing lack of additional support for businesses, despite the continuing escalation in cases and measures,” he said.
“As Mr Hancock says, the vaccine provides a route out of pandemic restrictions by the spring. That’s still another quarter or more of no or little trade for businesses required to close and their supply chains – over 12 months of covid lockdowns or restrictions in total.
“It’s an impossible situation for many businesses to survive without further support. There’s light at the end of the tunnel but businesses need the Government to keep laying down the tracks in order to reach it.
“We will continue to call on the Chancellor to back our businesses by enhancing grant support for the most impacted businesses with higher overheads and take urgent action on VAT and business rates reliefs and other key measures.
“Businesses need to see a viable way through these short term but financially brutal conditions.”
Louise Bennett, chief executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, added: “As we have said from the outset of the pandemic, health must come first but the latest restrictions to hit the region mean even more businesses will have to close their doors and it’s vitally important that the Government continues to help firms to get through this.
“With the rollout of the vaccine under way and the approval of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, companies across Coventry and Warwickshire can see a light at the end of the tunnel so it’s crucial that as many businesses as possible survive the difficult weeks ahead.
“Then, there needs to be a plan to build a sustained economic recovery after the most devastating downturn any of us have seen. Government must work with business to help create that plan.”