New stricter lockdown regulations have been announced for Liverpool and three other parts of north England.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock made the announcement in the Commons on Thursday morning after a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
He said that there were 7,018 cases in the UK on Wednesday, but added that there was some hope that efforts were beginning to work and the R rate was coming down.
But he added that cases were still rising, and that they “needed to act” in the Liverpool city region, Warrington, Hartlepool and Middlesborough.
In a statement, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the Commons: “Earlier this week we brought in further measures in the North-East, however in parts of Teesside and the North-West of England cases continue to rise fast.
“In Liverpool, the number of cases is 268 per 100,000 population, so together we need to act. Working with council leaders and the mayors, I’m today extending these measures that have been in the North East since the start of this week to the Liverpool City Region, Warrington, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough.
“We will provide £7 million to local authorities in these areas to support them with their vital work.”
The restrictions are similar to the ones that have been introduced elsewhere, where households are banned from mixing in public venues.
In Liverpool, 1,287 new coronavirus cases were recorded, the equivalent of 268.4 cases per 100,000 people.
The city’s rate is one of the highest in England and neighbouring borough Knowsley also has a high rate with 261.8 cases per 100,000. Both are below Blaenau Gwent.
Matt Hancock said that he would now allow the virus to “let rip” across the country.
He said: “It is critical that the whole country acts together now to control the spread of this virus, so please for your loved ones, for your community, and for your country – follow the rules and do your bit to keep this virus under control.
“By its nature, this virus spreads through social contact and so it’s had a terrible impact on the hospitality sector, who in good times exist to encourage that very social contact that we all enjoy.
“We’ve had to take difficult but necessary decisions to suppress the virus. The only alternative to suppressing the virus is to let it rip and I will not do that.”
He added: “So, while I know that many of the individual rules are challenging, they are necessary and there are those early signs that they’re working.”
Local leaders have called for the Government to provide financial support.
In a joint statement, Liverpool City Region metro mayor Steve Rotheram and the leaders of Liverpool, Sefton, Wirral, St Helens, Halton and Knowsley authorities have called for the Government to work with them, provide financial support and increase testing capacity.
They said: “Throughout the pandemic, we have always put the health of our residents first and we will continue to do everything we can to stop the spread of coronavirus and keep as many people as possible safe.
“However, at the same time, we must be clear that any further restrictions will deal a hammer blow to our economy.”
Measures to restrict travel, in place in some areas of Wales, were reportedly not put forward.
There have been calls for a ban on people from travelling to Wales from parts of England where Covid rates are high.
Unlike in Wales, where people in areas in local lockdown are banned from leaving the county without a reasonable excuse, in England there are no such restrictions.
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson dismissed any changes when he was questioned about it in the Commons on Wednesday, saying “illogicalities” were “inevitable”