Covid: Tier 3 restrictions extended across east and south east England - 38 million will be living under strictest rules

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener

Tier 3 Covid restrictions will be extended across a huge swathe of east and south east England, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced.

Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Peterborough, Hertfordshire, Surrey, except Waverley, Hastings and Rother, Portsmouth, Gosport, Havant will be under the strictest Tier 3 measures from Saturday.

And just a handful of local authorities will be moving down a tier - Bristol and North Somerset will move from Tier 3 to Tier 2 and Herefordshire will move from Tier 2 to Tier 1 from Saturday.

The latest change means from Saturday a total of 38 million people will be living under the toughest Covid restrictions - 68% of the population of England.

Some 30% of the population will be in Tier 2 while 2% will be in Tier 1.

The health secretary said cases are up 46% across the south east of England in the last week, while hospital admissions are up by a third.

Mr Hancock told MPs: "As we enter the coldest months we must be vigilant and keep this virus under control."

However Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer says the tier system is "not strong enough to control the virus."

"We've been seeing the numbers go in the wrong direction, across the country over the past seven days," he added.

The latest tier changes come after London, parts of Essex and Hertfordshire moved to Tier 3 on Wednesday - but all of Hertfordshire will move to Tier 3 from Saturday.

Great Manchester mayor Andy Burnham had hoped Manchester would go from Tier 3 to Tier 2, as he said there had been “steady decreases” across all of the region’s 10 boroughs.

But the government decided to take a more cautious approach, perhaps due to the easing of restrictions over the Christmas period.

  • Tiers update: Correspondent Rebecca Barry reports from Guildford

The announcement that Manchester stays in Tier 3 is “bitterly disappointing”, the city’s council leader said.

Sir Richard Leese said: "Without a Covid-safe hospitality offer during Christmas week we now run the risk of people finding other ways to socialise which will only increase the number of infections."

Manchester MP Andrew Gwynne says the region has become "arbitrarily" trapped in Tier 3 and is being "held back" due to the government's Christmas rules.

What can you do in each tier? The rules in England at a glance:

  • Tier 1: Up to six people can meet indoors or outdoors. Pubs and restaurants can open, with last orders at 10pm and closing at 11pm.

  • Tier 2: No mixing indoors, apart from support bubbles. Up to six people can meet outdoors. Pubs and restaurants can open, with last orders at 10pm and closing at 11pm - but alcohol can only be served with a substantial meal.

  • Tier 3: No mixing indoors. People can only meet outdoors in limited places such as parks and public gardens. Pubs and restaurants must close, with the exception of takeaway sales.

In all tiers, non-essential shops, gyms, hairdressers and personal care services can open. People in all tiers to work from home where they can do so. Full details on what you can do in each tier here.

  • The latest Tier changes - explained

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Wednesday there would be no changes to the Christmas rules, so three households can join together from December 23-27, but he urged the public to take personal responsibility.

He said a “shorter and smaller” Christmas would be a safer one, and advised people to avoid travelling from "high prevalence" areas to those with lower Covid-19 case rates and not to stay overnight if possible.

But Wales announced it would be making its guidance to limit Christmas bubbles to two households into law.

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth questioned whether it is sensible to ease restrictions over the Christmas period.

He said: “This isn’t about cancelling Christmas, Santa will still deliver his presents, but is (Matt Hancock) really telling us that allowing indoor mixing of three households across regions and generations for five days is sensible given the virus is raging with such ferocity at the moment?"

Watch Matt Hancock's address in the House of Commons

But Mr Hancock said the three-household Christmas bubble rule is “not a limit up to which we should all push”.

"People should act with great caution in this pandemic because it protects them, it protects their families, it protects their loved ones," he said.

“We’ve set out what the rules are but they are not a limit up to which we should all push. We can all act within those rules to limit the spread."