More than 26million Brits banned from meeting in pubs and homes from Saturday

More than 26million Brits will be banned from meeting indoors this weekend in a last ditch attempt to avoid a national lockdown.

Health secretary Matt Hancock announced London, Essex, Elmbridge, Barrow & Furness, York, North East Derbyshire, Erewash will be moved to Tier 2 lockdown restrictions.

People will be banned from meeting anybody outside their household or support bubble at pubs, restaurants or at home from 12.01am on Saturday.

The rule of six will still apply when mixing with other households outdoors such as in parks, gardens or outdoor hospitality settings.

Dismissing Labour's call for a national "circuit breaker" lockdown, Mr Hancock said the decisions had been made with a "heavy heart" and have the sole aim of "steering our nation through troubled waters."

He also warned MPs that "discussions are ongoing" over placing Manchester into Tier 3 restrictions, adding: "No further decisions have yet been made but we need to make rapid progress."

London mayor Sadiq Khan said Covid-19 is "spreading rapidly in every corner of our city", with a "significant number" of boroughs reporting an average of 100 cases per 100,000 people.

He backed Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer's call for a "short national circuit breaker" lockdown, which "could save thousands of lives and drive the virus down to manageable levels".

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Labour MP for York Central Rachael Maskell said "there are areas of the country in Tier 3 with a lower infection rate, and the health secretary said he would continue discussions over the measures in York.

MPs in Lancashire told Sky News they have been informed the area is staying in Tier 2 for now.

Essex County Council had asked Mr Hancock to move the area into Tier 2 on Tuesday, and welcomed today's move. Southend and Thurrock are excluded from Essex as they are unitary authorities.

Liverpool City Region, which has around 1.6 million residents, remains the only area with the Tier 3 level of measures.

Meanwhile, NHS Test and Trace recorded its worst ever week for contact tracing.

Only 62.6 per cent of close contacts of people who tested positive for the virus in England were reached through the system in the week ending October 7 – down from 69.5% a week ago.

The Department of Health and Social Care said: “As non-complex cases have a higher proportion of contacts who are unable to be reached, this has contributed to the reduction in the overall percentage of contacts who were reached and asked to self-isolate since Test and Trace launched, from 91.1 per cent to 62.6 per cent in the latest week.”

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