MATT Hancock will plunge millions more into Tier 4 today as he warned we "have to take further action".
The Health Secretary will tell MPs later today which areas will be put into a near-lockdown, with shops, indoor activities, gyms and hairdressers shut to stop the Covid spread.
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"We are facing a very significant challenge in the NHS right now," he told Sky News today.
"There has been a significant rise in the number of cases – the highest number of cases recorded yesterday, 53,000 cases.
"We are going to have to take further action. I'm going to set that out the House of Commons later today."
He is expected to address MPs at around 3pm – after the Brexit votes in the Commons.
He added on Radio 4: "The new variant means the suppression of the virus is also much harder. That is why we had to introduce Tier 4.
"I'll be setting out the further extensions we are going to have to make to Tier 4 to the House of Commons later today."
Already a third of England are in the top Tier 4 – with an extra six million people moved there from Boxing Day.
Data from the ZOE Symptom tracker app has revealed that areas such as Manchester and Leicester could be pushed into a harsh Tier 4 lockdown as cases continue to rise.
It came as:
- The Oxford University/AstraZenca vaccine was approved by regulators today – with a million doses a week to be rolled out from next week
- And a change in strategy is expected to take place so people can get the vaccine sooner – with ministers to prioritise the first jab and give the second within 12 weeks
- More than 53,000 cases of the virus were reported yesterday
- A major incident was declared in Essex over Covid as hospitals struggle to cope with demand
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