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A huge swathe of the South-East and London’s commuter belt is to be plunged into Tier 3 restrictions, meaning pubs and restaurants must close.

All of Surrey except Waverley, the whole of Buckinghamshire, Bedofrdshire, Hertfordshire, Berkshire and part of Hampshire are affected. Hastings and Rother, which are close to the Kent border, are also included. So are Portsmouth, Gosport and Havant.

The grim news was announced in the Commons by Health Secretary Matt Hancock after steep rises in Covid-19 in commuter towns.

“As we enter the coldest months we must be vigilant and keep this virus under control,” he said.

There was good news for Bristol and North Somerset, which will move into Tier 2 from Tier 3, and Herefordshire will move from Tier 2 to the very lowest restrictions, in Tier 1.

There was disappointment for northern cities and county towns elsewhere, which were pleading to be put into a lower tier. Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham complained there was a “clear case” for his region to go down to Tier 2.

He accused ministers of planning to “overcompensate” for the decision to allow the Christmas easing of restrictions, despite fears of a spike in infections, by keeping tight curbs on the North.

The Tier 3 rules mean pubs, restaurants and cafés have to close along with theatres, indoor play centres, casinos, bingo halls and cinemas. There is also a ban on socialising in private gardens, while hotels and guest houses must close except for essential purposes. It came as:

  • London’s biggest hospital trust, Barts Health, was forced to start postponing operations amid Covid-19 surges in east London, and nearly 32,000 confirmed cases in a week across the city. Barking, Havering and Redbridge NHS trust, which runs Queen’s and King George hospitals, has also started cancelling operations
  • The scale of the escalating coronavirus crisis facing the capital was laid bare by official statistics showing a record daily figure of 6,777 confirmed new cases, the seven-day rate soaring to 298.8 per 100,000 people, and to 596 in Havering, and 10 boroughs, mainly in east London, being hit with more than 1,000 new cases in the week to December 11
  • Big increases have been seen in commuter belt towns like Woking in Surrey, up from 184 cases per 100,000 residents at the end of November, to a high of 277.8 cases per 100,000 in the most recent official data. In Epsom & Ewell, also in Surrey, the rate has surged from 139 to 237; in Surrey Heath, from 121 to 228 and in Spelthorne from 118 to 247.

Read More on Evening Standard

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