More than one million people in northern England will be banned from mixing with other households under tougher new coronavirus rules announced by government minister Robert Jenrick on Wednesday.
The county of South Yorkshire, which includes the city of Sheffield, will enter into “very high alert” restrictions from 12.01am on Saturday.
“Given rates are amongst the highest in the country, I am pleased that we were able to reach an agreement that ensures swift action is taken in accordance with the public health advice,” Jenrick said.
Under the new rules, many pubs, bars, casinos and other venues will be closed for at least four weeks and residents will be barred from meeting anybody outside their household indoors.
“I fully recognize the huge impact this will have on communities in the area and the sacrifices people will be making,” said Jenrick.
“That’s why we have agreed an extensive package of support for local people, businesses and councils.”
Dan Jarvis, the mayor of the Sheffield City Region, tweeted that local leaders had secured £41 million (US$53.5 million) in government funding.
The decision will affect about 1.4 million people, meaning that 7.3 million people – or 13% of England’s population – will now be living under the toughest restrictions.
Similar measures were recently announced for the northwest cities of Liverpool and Manchester and the county of Lancashire.
Local leaders in Manchester bitterly opposed the move without extra cash, threatening to undermine Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s strategy of local lockdowns across England.
Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said Johnson’s government had refused to meet his demands for a package of £65 million, which he called “the bare minimum to prevent a winter of real hardship here.”
Britain has suffered Europe’s worst death toll from coronavirus, with nearly 44,000 deaths, despite imposing a nationwide stay-at-home order in late March.
More than 21,000 new cases and 241 new deaths were reported on Tuesday.