From Saturday, millions more people living in England will be placed under high Covid alert.
The health secretary said a steep rise in infections meant more restrictions would be imposed on the whole of Greater London, as well as Essex, parts of Derbyshire, the city of York, the town of Barrow-in-Furness and the district of Elmbridge in Surrey.
But a furious reaction from both Labour and Conservative local politicians forced the government to hold off putting Greater Manchester and Lancashire into the highest level of alert.
The latest UK figures show there have been a further 18,980 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus.
The most recent 24-hour death toll is 138, which is very similar to yesterday’s figure, and 4,770 patients were admitted to hospital last week, which is up by 38 per cent on the previous week.