Latest figures show the 20 areas in Tier 4 with the highest rates of infections, as more areas are set to be plunged into England’s toughest set of restrictions.
Matt Hancock will address the recalled House of Commons on the latest tier review. The health secretary said on Wednesday morning that, contrary to overnight reports, he wouldn’t be announcing any tougher restrictions.
He told LBC: “I'm not announcing anything above Tier 4 today, and we need to see in Tier 4 areas not just rules, but people taking that responsibility as they did in the first and second national lockdown to keep the rates under control.”
Areas are likely to move up a tier rather than down as coronavirus cases continue to spike.
The latest tier review comes after NHS England figures revealed that 20,426 patients were being treated for coronavirus in hospitals as of 8am on Monday, compared with the 18,974 patients recorded on 12 April.
The UK also reported 53,135 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday – the highest number of new daily coronavirus since the pandemic began for the second day running.
The government also said a further 414 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for COVID-19 as of Tuesday, bringing the UK total to 71,567.
The totals come after a new strain of coronavirus was detected in London and south-east England before Christmas.
More areas of England are likely to be moved into Tier 4, where people are restricted to stay at home and are only able to meet one other person outdoors.
But the government is also under pressure to introduce even harsher restrictions in London and other areas of the south.
The new restrictions are reportedly thought to include banning people from leaving their homes for non-essential reasons like the first national lockdown in March.
There are five considerations when deciding which tier areas should be in, which include infection rates, infection rates in over-60s, pressure on the NHS, the positivity rate and the trajectory of an increase or decrease.
The top 20 areas in Tier 4 with the highest infection rates in the country include several London boroughs and areas of south-east England, according to analysis by the PA news agency, based on Public Health England’s figures.
Watch: More COVID-19 patients in England’s hospitals than April peak
The data includes (from left to right), the rate of new cases and the number (in brackets) of new cases recorded in the seven days to December 25 and the rate of new cases and the number (in brackets) of new cases in the seven days to December 18.
The rate is expressed as the number of new cases per 100,000 people. Data for the most recent four days (December 26-29) has been excluded as it is incomplete and does not reflect the true number of cases.
Of the 315 local areas in England, 238 (76%) have seen a rise in case rates, 75 (24%) have seen a fall, and two are unchanged.
Brentwood, Tier 4, 1258.1, (969), 1134.8, (874)
Epping Forest, Tier 4, 1256.0, (1654), 1179.3, (1553)
Thurrock, Tier 4, 1181.6, (2060), 1295.2, (2258)
Havering, Tier 4, 1068.8, (2774), 1222.5, (3173)
Castle Point, Tier 4, 1047.8, (947), 1036.8, (937)
Broxbourne, Tier 4, 1037.2, (1009), 841.9, (819)
Redbridge, Tier 4, 1008.4, (3078), 1083.5, (3307)
Bexley, Tier 4, 987.2, (2451), 868.3, (2156)
Basildon, Tier 4, 954.6, (1787), 1121.8, (2100)
Harlow, Tier 4, 933.8, (813), 737.4, (642)
Barking and Dagenham, Tier 4, 932.3, (1985), 997.2, (2123)
Southend-on-Sea, Tier 4, 931.1, (1705), 943.1, (1727)
Rochford, Tier 4, 929.4, (812), 1061.0, (927)
Enfield, Tier 4, 929.3, (3102), 818.8, (2733)
Hastings, Tier 4, 917.3, (850), 958.3, (888)
Tower Hamlets, Tier 4, 892.4, (2898), 822.2, (2670)
Newham, Tier 4, 880.7, (3110), 798.3, (2819)
Hertsmere, Tier 4, 864.5, (907), 598.6, (628)
Dartford, Tier 4, 849.0, (956), 805.5, (907)
Medway, Tier 4, 847.6, (2361), 1078.1, (3003)
The stark figures come amid warnings that Boris Johnson must take tougher action.
Professor Andrew Hayward, who is part of the government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) said a “near lockdown” or tighter restrictions than Tier 4 will likely be needed to stop a coronavirus “catastrophe” early next year.
Prof Hayward believes the way COVID-19 is spreading means previous restrictions will no longer work.
He said the rise in cases is being driven by the newly-identified fast-spreading variant of coronavirus, which accounted for 60% of London’s coronavirus cases by December and could be up to 70% more transmissible.
Prof Hayward told BBC Radio 4: “I think we are entering a very dangerous new phase of the pandemic and we’re going to need decisive, early, national action to prevent a catastrophe in January and February.
“A 50% increase in transmissibility means that the previous levels of restrictions that worked before won’t work now, and so Tier 4 restrictions are likely to be necessary or even higher than that.
“I think we’re really looking at a situation where we’re moving into near lockdown, but we’ve got to learn the lessons from the first lockdown.”
A decision on tiers is expected to be made at a meeting of the government's Covid-19 Operations committee on Tuesday evening, to be chaired by Boris Johnson.
Some parts of the East Midlands, such as Northamptonshire and Leicestershire, could be moved up from Tier 3 to Tier 4, while counties such as Lincolnshire and Derbyshire may stay in Tier 3.
All the areas within the West Midlands metropolitan county – Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton – might be facing a move from Tier 3 to 4.
Hartlepool in north-east England, along with a handful of areas in Lancashire - Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Pendle and Ribble Valley – could also be upgraded from Tier 3 to 4.
Cumbria might be moved from Tier 2 to Tier 3, as could Worcestershire and North Yorkshire.
Watch: COVID-19: Paramedic forced to treat patients in back of ambulance as hospitals face becoming overwhelmed