Almost six months on from Boris Johnson’s historic announcement that he was putting the entire UK into lockdown, local lockdown restrictions have become a near-weekly event.
On Thursday, the north-east of England became the latest area to be put under strict restrictions by the government, with almost two million people affected by measures that include a 10pm curfew for hospitality venues.
And the previous day almost 4,000 new Covid-19 infections were reported in the UK – the highest figure since May.
Local lockdowns are a serious weapon in the government’s arsenal against the disease. With that in mind, here is everything you need to know about them – from the kind of rules ministers are bringing in, to where could be next on the list.
These are the areas of England with the highest rates of Covid-19
Bolton remains the place in England with the highest rate of coronavirus.
In the seven days leading up to September 13, 587 cases were reported in the north-west town – the equivalent of 204.1 new infections per every 100,000 people.
It represents a significant jump in cases, up from 192 per 100,000 in the week up to September 10 and up from 152 in the seven days leading up to September 6.
For context, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control estimates that the 14-day infection rate for the whole of the UK is currently 55.6 cases per 100,000 people.
The rate of infection in Bolton is considerably higher than the areas with the next highest levels of coronavirus, with Oadby and Wigston in second place with a rate of 136.8 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 people.
However, given that the UK tends to add countries to its quarantine list once the infection rate reaches 20, this figure still represents a significant cause for concern.
In total, there are 12 places in England with coronavirus rates above 100 per 100,000.
Areas in England with the highest rates of Covid-19
Bolton 204.1 cases per 100,000 (587 new cases)
Oadby and Wigston 136.8 cases per 100,000 (78 new cases)
Hyndburn 132.0 cases per 100,000 (107 new cases)
Preston 125.8 cases per 100,000 (180 new cases)
Burnley 124.8 cases per 100,000 (111 new cases)
Blackburnwith Darwen 120.2 cases per 100,000 (180 new cases)
Oldham 114.7 cases per 100,000 (272 new cases)
Liverpool 106.4 cases per 100,000 (530 new cases)
Tameside 105.1 cases per 100,000 (238 new cases)
Warrington 104.8 cases per 100,000 (220 new cases)
Knowsley 102.7 cases per 100,000 (155 new cases)
St Helens 101.3 cases per 100,000 (183 new cases)
These are the places already under local lockdown restrictions
A number of areas have already been put under strict restrictions.
The latest measures in the north-east come just days after a fresh ban on residents mixing with people outside their household or bubble in Birmingham, Solihull and Sandwell amid a surge in coronavirus cases.
In Leicester – which remained in full lockdown for weeks after the rest of England – some restrictions still remain in place, with a similar ban on social mixing in force and people with severe health conditions still advised to shield.
Areas in England subject to local restrictions
Blackburn with Darwen
Northampton (for Greencore workers)
Large parts of Greater Manchester
Large parts of West Yorkshire
Large parts of Lancashire
The places that could be next for lockdown restrictions
With rates of coronavirus fluctuating week-to-week, it’s tough to predict where restrictions could come in next.
However, every Friday, the government – along with Public Health England – produces a “watchlist” of areas with troubling levels of Covid-19.
On this list are areas already under strict rules – but it also includes places subject to “enhanced support” from the government and areas considered to be “of concern”.
There are five areas currently receiving enhanced support in a bid to stamp out surges in coronavirus cases.
These include Leeds, Stockport and Burnley.
Meanwhile, there are a further 21 “areas of concern”, including Liverpool, Sheffield, Peterborough and Northampton.
A new watchlist is expected to be published on Friday.
On Wednesday, it was reported that health chiefs in London were also considering a curfew in the capital to stop people staying out “drinking until the wee hours of the morning”.
What has Boris Johnson said about local lockdown restrictions?
Prime minister Boris Johnson has warned that actions to tackle a second surge of coronavirus must be “tough now” in order to “protect” Christmas.
The PM said people have to be “both confident and cautious” and that it is “crucial” the country does not re-enter “some great lockdown again that stops business from functioning”.
He told The Sun: “Christmas we want to protect, and we want everyone to have a fantastic Christmas.
“But the only way to make sure the country is able to enjoy Christmas is to be tough now.
“So if we can grip it now, stop the surge, arrest the spike, stop the second hump of the dromedary, flatten the second hump.”
But Johnson’s tough stance comes amid a crisis in coronavirus testing, with people sent hundreds of miles across the country for tests as the test and trace system struggles to cope.
On Tuesday, health secretary Matt Hancock announced that tests would be rationed, with patients with acute medical needs and people in care homes at the front of the queue under the new system.
Meanwhile, it was revealed on Thursday that the number of tests completed in 24 hours had hit a new low, with just one-third of results from “in-person” tests returned within a day – a dramatic fall on the 66.5% the week before.
Flaws in the system have been highly criticised by opposition MPs with Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth tweeting: “It was obvious failing to fix tracing ahead of wider opening up of the economy would lead to increased demand on testing. Now testing is broken, tracing rendered less effective & the virus won’t be tracked.”