London will return to Tier 2 when England’s national lockdown lifts next Wednesday, the government has announced.
Liverpool will join the capital on “high alert” on 2 December, while Manchester, Lancashire, Blackpool, Kent and Birmingham will enter Tier 3.
Just three regions — the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly — will enter Tier 1.
That means almost 99 per cent of the English population will come under the higher Tier 2 and Tier 3 levels when they come into effect next week.
Tier 2 will mean up to six people can meet outdoors, though a ban on household mixing will remain in place indoors.
The government published the changes through a postcode checker website which crashed just a few minutes after going live.
Announcing the changes this morning, health secretary Matt Hancock said: “I know for those of you faced with Tier 3 restrictions this will be a particularly difficult time but I want to reassure you that we’ll be supporting your areas with mass community testing and extra funding.”
Shops, gyms and hairdressers will be allowed to reopen under all three tiers from next week, while collective worship and outdoor sports will also be able to resume.
Pubs and restaurants will be allowed to reopen in Tier 1 and Tier 2, but must remain as takeaway-only services in Tier 3.
The 10pm curfew for pubs and bars will be replaced with a 10pm bell for last orders, with venues allowed to stay open until 11pm.
For the first time since the country’s first lockdown in March, sports fans will be allowed back into outdoor stadiums in areas with the lowest cases of coronavirus.
Tier 3 will see a ban on household mixing both indoors and outdoors, with the rule of six in outdoor spaces such as parks and sports courts.
Tier allocations are based on five criteria, including case numbers across all age groups; cases in those aged over 60; the rate of rise or fall in infections; the percentage of those tested who have the virus; and current and projected pressures on the NHS locally.
Unlike the previous system, there will be no negotiation with local leaders over the classification, with financial support allocated on a uniform per-capita basis.
Regional tier positions will be reviewed every 14 days, with the restrictions likely to be in place until March. The first review for the current tier allocations will take place by Wednesday 16 December.
Announcing the new system in a virtual address to the Commons on Monday, Johnson cautioned that “the incidence of the disease is still widespread in many areas, so we’re not going to replace national measures with a free for all status quo”.
“I’m sorry to say we expect that more regions will fall, at least temporarily, into higher levels than before,” Johnson told MPs.
“But by using these tougher tiers, and by using rapid turnaround tests on an ever greater scale to drive R below 1 and keep it at that, it should be possible for areas to move down the tiering scale to lower levels of restrictions,” he added.
Cities of London and Westminster MP Nickie Aiken MP said: “Whilst I’m relieved London hasn’t gone into Tier 3, I remain concerned about the economic affects tier 2 will have – particularly on the hospitality sector.
“Restaurants, cafes and pubs have worked incredibly hard to be Covid secure. I will continue to push the government to publish a clear pathway for how we can move into Tier 1.”
MPs representing areas in the North hit out at the new Tier 3 restrictions, warning they would “cripple” businesses in the run-up to Christmas.
Tory MP Steve Baker, chair of the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group, urged the government to publish its methodology for allocating the tier system.
“The authoritarianism at work today is truly appalling. But is it necessary and proportionate to the threat from this disease?” he tweeted.
“On the economy and on coronavirus, I fear we are now so far down the rabbit hole that we have forgotten we even entered it.”