Matt Hancock stands by 10pm pubs curfew despite Tory fury

Matt Hancock today warned that 'hundreds of thousands' of Britons could die from Covid-19, if ministers ease all the restrictions and let the vicious disease 'rip' through the country once again.

The Health Secretary admitted it was 'perfectly reasonable' to argue No10 should drop all the measures, including the hotly-contested 10pm curfew and Rule of Six, in favour of a Swedish-style approach to the pandemic, which opted against a draconian lockdown in the spring.

But in a blunt response, he added: 'I just think the hundreds of thousands of deaths that would follow is not a price that anyone should pay.' His words echoed that of the Prime Minister, who in a gloomy press conference last night insisted that letting the virus 'take its course' risked overwhelming the NHS and causing thousands more deaths.

His dramatic warning — which sits at odds with even the starkest projections made by Downing Street's top two scientific advisers — came as he announced tough local lockdown measures in Liverpool, Hartlepool, Warrington and Middlesbrough. Around a third of Britain — in the region of 22million people — will be under some form of extra controls, when the policies come into place.

But ministers are already facing a revolt over the measures, with Middlesbrough's mayor vowing to 'defy' the ban on socialising with other households indoors. Andy Preston, who is independent and not affiliated to any political party, accused ministers of 'ignorance' and claimed the measures were tougher than he and other local politicians lobbied for.

Mr Hancock's denial he was taking an axe to civil liberties also came as he side-stepped demands in the House of Commons to explain the scientific basis behind the economically-crippling 10pm curfew. Anger has been growing about the restriction, amid fears that it could kill off swathes of the industry and destroy thousands of jobs. 

His warning that 'hundreds of thousands' could die if the disease was allowed to run through Britain again — even though the overall death toll only currently stands at 42,000 — was prompted by an outburst from a furious Tory MP, who accused him of not acting like a true Conservative and running a 'nanny-state'.

But a raft of data today suggested Britain's outbreak is no longer spiralling into another crisis. Department of Health bosses announced another 6,914 coronavirus cases — up 4.2 per cent in a week, despite warnings from the government's chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, and England's chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, that the UK was hurtling towards 50,000 new infections a day by mid-October.

Other promising statistics — from the government-funded REACT-1 study, carried out by Imperial College London academics, suggested the R rate has plunged back down to 1.1, from 1.7 in September. The report, based on tens of thousands of random swab tests, also claimed cases are rising less steeply than they were a few weeks ago.

Separate estimates from King's College London's Covid Symptom Study suggest that the rise in daily new cases is only 23 per cent higher than last week, after it more than doubled in the week before.  

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was repeatedly challenged by Tories on the swingeing restrictions as he announced new lockdown measures in Commons today

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was repeatedly challenged by Tories on the swingeing restrictions as he announced new lockdown measures in Commons today

Britain announces 6,914 more coronavirus cases and 59 deaths 

Britain has announced another 6,914 coronavirus cases as a wave of statistics today suggested the UK's spike in infections is finally starting to slow down — but deaths continue to creep up.

Department of Health figures show the number of daily infections is just 4.2 per cent higher this week than it was last Thursday, when 6,634 positive tests were added to the official count.

Officials today also declared another 59 laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 deaths, up 47.5 per cent on the 40 posted this time last week but down slightly on the 71 registered yesterday. For comparison, more than 1,000 people were dying each day during the darkest weeks of the first wave in April.

Despite fatalities continuing to creep up, data now suggests that the surging numbers of cases which have rattled the nation in recent weeks appear to be slowing down. 

Although the current numbers of positive tests seem high and are higher than they were during the peak in March and April, the remain only a ripple as scientists predict that more than 100,000 people were catching the virus in the spring and tests would've picked up tens of thousands every day if the same amount of swabs were done then.

The Government-funded REACT-1 study, carried out by Imperial College London, said there were signs that the R rate has fallen to around 1.1 now, from 1.7 in September, and that cases are now rising less steeply than they were a few weeks ago.

Advertisement

As Britain's coronavirus crisis descended into more chaos today:

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced Turkey and Poland are being added to the Government's travel quarantine 'red list' — but holidays to Greece and are still allowed; Fury erupted after Matt Hancock wrongly shot down vitamin D as a potential coronavirus treatment, despite mounting evidence from scientific trials around the world that suggest it may help; Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt argued Britain is in a 'totally different position' to where it was in the spring and local lockdowns may have helped avoid another disaster; Ex-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn broke the 'Rule of Six' at a dinner held to remember the late Occupy Wall Street organiser David Graeber, who died suddenly last month in Venice;  giant H&M announced its plan to shut 250 stores worldwide, while Burger King prepares to axe 1,600 UK staff under plans to permanently close some of its UK branches;  Ministers are bracing for unemployment to hit four million over the winter months as pub bosses warned a quarter of staff are facing redundancy when furlough ends. 

Department of Health figures show the number of daily infections is just 4.2 per cent higher this week than it was last Thursday, when 6,634 positive tests were added to the official count. 

Officials today also declared another 59 laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 deaths, up 47.5 per cent on the 40 posted this time last week but down slightly on the 71 registered yesterday. 

Despite fatalities continuing to creep up, data now suggests that the surging numbers of cases which have rattled the nation in recent weeks appear to be slowing down.

Estimates from King's College London's Covid Symptom Study suggest that the rise in daily new cases is only 23 per cent higher than last week, after it more than doubled in the week before.

This afternoon the elected mayor of Middlesbrough vowed to 'defy' new lockdown measures, accusing ministers of 'ignorance' after they brought in strict new measures for its population.

Independent Andy Preston lashed out after Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs the town, along with Liverpool, Hartlepool and Warrington would face the same curbs as the North East.  

In a video message Mr Preston said they went further than he and other local politicians had lobbied for, and in what is believed to be a first for a local politician, rejected the measures outlined in the Commons. 

Middlesbrough and Hartlepool councils had asked for a ban on households mixing in their own homes. But Mr Hancock announced it would also be illegal for households in those boroughs to mix in a public setting such as a pub.

'I have to tell you I think this measure has been introduced based on factual inaccuracies and a monstrous and frightening lack of communication, and ignorance,' Mr Preston said in a video posted on Twitter.

In the Commons, Conservative former Cabinet minister Greg Clark asked: 'It does seem strange to think that concentrating trade in a smaller number of hours and making everyone leave a pub or a restaurant at the same time rather than spacing them out over the course of the evening should suppress rather than spread the virus.'

Mr Hancock replied: 'The scientific advice is that the people who are closer together are more likely to spread the virus, and later at night social distancing becomes harder.

'We've all seen the pictures of people leaving pubs at 10 o'clock but otherwise they would have been inside the establishments and we all know that outside is safer, or they'd be leaving later. 

Conservative former Cabinet minister Greg Clark asked in the Commons for the scientific basis for the policy

Conservative former Cabinet minister Greg Clark asked in the Commons for the scientific basis for the policy

Holidays to and Greece are SAVED - but travellers from Turkey and Poland must now self-isolate for 14-days 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps today announced Turkey and Poland are being added to the Government's travel quarantine 'red list' - but holidays to Greece and are still allowed.

As of 4am on Saturday anyone returning from Turkey or Poland, as well as the Caribbean islands of Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba, must quarantine for 14 days.

There had been speculation that restrictions were going to be imposed on and Greece after a spike in cases but the two nations were ultimately given a reprieve.

Mr Shapps tweeted this evening: 'TRAVEL CORRIDOR UPDATE: The latest data indicates we need to remove Turkey, Poland, and Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba from the #TravelCorridor list this week.' 

There were fears earlier today that Greece and could be added after the former recorded 20.5 cases per 100,000 people in recent days while was at slightly above 20 per 100,000.

The Government currently uses a threshold of 20 cases per 100,000, along with a number of other criteria, when it makes decisions on whether to add or remove countries from its quarantine list.

Advertisement

'Of course, we keep this under review and of course we're constantly looking at how we can improve these policies, but I think we've got to look at both sides of the evidence to try to get this right.'

Tory backbencher Philip Davies accused Mr Hancock of presiding over a 'nanny state' with the imposed 10pm curfew policy and called on him to 'start acting like a Conservative'. 

Mr Davies said: 'Is the Secretary of State aware of the damage the arbitrary 10pm curfew is doing to pubs, restaurants, bowling alleys and casinos? Is he aware of the jobs that are being lost, all just to see people congregating on the streets instead and shop staff getting more abuse?

'When will the Secretary of State start acting like a Conservative with a belief in individual responsibility and abandon this arbitrary, nanny state, socialist approach which is serving no purpose at all apart from the further collapse of the economy and erode our freedoms?'

But Mr Hancock said he 'profoundly' disagreed with Mr Davies, saying he believed in 'individual responsibility and the promotion of freedom, subject to not harming others'.

He added: 'So it is perfectly reasonable to make the argument that we should just let the virus rip, I just think that the hundreds of thousands of deaths that would follow is not a price that anyone should pay.'

However, ex-cabinet minister Jeremy Hunt earlier said the local lockdowns may have prevented the current second wave of infections from taking hold across the country.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'I think the evidence from what happened earlier in the year, not just in this country but all over the world, is that acting early, decisively, quickly, is actually the best way to contain the spread of the virus and that's what I think Chris Whitty and the Prime Minister are saying.

'One of the things that is often not noted about was the successful way in which they managed to contain the outbreak of the virus in northern , in Lombardy, and avoid it spreading to the rest of the country.

'Now, we didn't manage to do that first time round but it just may be that these local lockdowns, although we haven't seen a big reduction in transmission within those areas, they may just have contained it and stopped it from becoming the national outbreak that we had before.'

Britain is in a 'totally different position' to where it was in the spring and local lockdowns may have helped avoid another disaster, according to Jeremy Hunt.

The former Health Secretary said today that mass testing has 'definitely made a difference' to the effects of this second surge in cases.

The Government is desperate to avoid the virus suddenly running out of control, but there is evidence this is not on the cards at the moment

The Government is desperate to avoid the virus suddenly running out of control, but there is evidence this is not on the cards at the moment

BRITAIN IS IN A 'TOTALLY DIFFERENT POSITION' NOW THAN IN SPRING, JEREMY HUNT SAYS

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said today that regular swab testing for NHS staff should be in place before the winter

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said today that regular swab testing for NHS staff should be in place before the winter

Britain is in a 'totally different position' to where it was in the spring and local lockdowns may have helped avoid another disaster, according to Jeremy Hunt.

The former Health Secretary said today that mass testing has 'definitely made a difference' to the effects of this second surge in cases.

Mr Hunt, who is now chair of Parliament's health committee, reiterated his call to have mass regular testing for NHS staff to keep on top of the outbreak.

He has repeatedly spoken out in favour of the policy and has been scathing of the Government's struggles to get large-scale testing up and running.

His comments come as positive coronavirus tests in the UK are continuing to rise to levels higher even than those seen during the spring outbreak's darkest days.

But the cases being announced now – thought to be a large proportion of the true number of infections – are still only a blip in the country's timeline after experts predict more than 100,000 people per day were catching it at the epidemic's peak but only tiny numbers were getting tested.

Advertisement

Mr Hunt, who is now chair of Parliament's health committee, reiterated his call to have mass regular testing for NHS staff to keep on top of the outbreak.

He has repeatedly spoken out in favour of the policy and has been scathing of the Government's struggles to get large-scale testing up and running. 

Department of Health statistics released today also revealed more people than ever are having to wait three days or more to find out if they have coronavirus after an in-person test in England.

Official NHS Test and Trace data showed today members of the public taking swab tests at drive-through test sites or pop-up local and mobile centres face growing waits.

Of the 155,000 people who used local test sites between September 17 and 23, 5.3 per cent of them had to wait more than 72 hours to find out their result. This was up from just 1.8 per cent a week earlier.

The same trend was seen in regional drive-through sites and at mobile testing units, with those three locations now accounting for the majority of public tests.

Other parts of the system saw improvements during the same time, however, with result return times falling among people getting tested in care homes and at home. And the proportion of people getting their results within 24 hours after an 'in-person test' rose, too, from 28.2 per cent to 38.1 per cent.

Statistics show that the number of people testing positive for the disease hit a new high in the penultimate week of September, with 31,373 confirmed cases up 61 per cent from 19,488 people a week earlier.

The testing system has come under immense pressure in recent weeks as cases of Covid-19 have surged across the country and soaring numbers of sick Britons are demanding swabs.

The Department of Health today confirmed that one in every eight people in England have now had a Covid-19 test – a total of 7.1million people.

Officials blamed some of the pressure on people ordering tests when they weren't technically eligible, but statistics show that the numbers of people catching the disease every day have more than tripled since the start of September. 

It comes as Mr Hancock was told to 'get his facts straight' today after shooting down vitamin D as a potential coronavirus treatment despite a growing body of evidence from around the world suggesting it works.

 

The Imperial College and Ipsos Mori study laid bare the North-South divide, pointing to the north west as the epicentre of the UK's outbreak

The Imperial College and Ipsos Mori study laid bare the North-South divide, pointing to the north west as the epicentre of the UK's outbreak

Mutiny in Middlesbrough: Town revolts after mayor REFSUES to follow new lockdown rules 

Independent Andy Preston lashed out after Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs the town, along with Liverpool, Hartlepool and Warrington would face the same curbs as the North East

Independent Andy Preston lashed out after Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs the town, along with Liverpool, Hartlepool and Warrington would face the same curbs as the North East

Boris Johnson is facing a coronavirus revolt in the north today as the elected mayor of Middlesbrough vowed to 'defy' new lockdown measures, accusing ministers of 'ignorance' after they brought in strict new measures for its population.

Independent Andy Preston lashed out after Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs the town, along with Liverpool, Hartlepool and Warrington would face the same curbs as the North East.

In a video message Mr Preston said they went further than he and other local politicians had lobbied for, and in what is believed to be a first for a local politician, rejected the measures outlined in the Commons.

Middlesbrough and Hartlepool councils had asked for a ban on households mixing in their own homes. But Mr Hancock announced it would also be illegal for households in those boroughs to mix in a public setting such as a pub.

'I have to tell you I think this measure has been introduced based on factual inaccuracies and a monstrous and frightening lack of communication, and ignorance,' Mr Preston said in a video posted on Twitter.

'I do not accept the statement at all. I do not accept these measures. We need to talk to government, they need to understand our local knowledge, expertise and ability to get things done, and preserve jobs and well-being.

'We are really disappointed. As things stand we defy the Government and we do not accept these measures.

'We need to get Covid under control and we need to work with people to find a way of preserving jobs and mental health.'

As head of the local council Mr Preston has no official powers to over-rule the decision taken by ministers. But he could, in theory, prevent council staff from helping to enforce the pub closures and household meeting ban - though there has been no suggestion yet that he would. 

Advertisement

Experts have for months been calling for officials to look into the immune system-boosting nutrient's effect on Covid-19 patients after a mountain of research showed a link to vitamin D deficiency.

Mr Hancock told the House of Commons last week he had green-lit a Government-funded 'trial' investigating vitamin D and that it did not 'appear to have any impact'.

But officials have since admitted that no clinical trials had taken place and claim it was a slip of the tongue from the health secretary - who was also staunchly opposed to face masks in the spring and claimed they were 'extremely weak' in stopping Covid-19's spread.

Officials estimate one in five Britons are deficient in vitamin D — the equivalent of 13million Britons. 

But the rate is up to 90 per cent in people with darker skin, such as BAME populations who are known to be at greater risk from Covid-19.

Mr Hancock has now agreed to meet experts to to hear the growing case for the vitamin, which the body produces when exposed to the sun. 

But his flippant dismissal of vitamin D has sparked fury among scientists and MPs who today said time is running out for ministers to act, as levels of the 'sunshine vitamin' drop dramatically in autumn and winter.

Experts said his comments 'displayed incredible ignorance', while Liberal Democrat MP Layla Morgan told MailOnline the secretary of state 'needs to be listening, not dismissing'. 

She added: 'I hope Matt Hancock will take a less flippant approach to potential treatments in future and get his facts straight before making such comments. We're in a crisis, it's time for politicians to stop playing science and listen to the experts.'

A mountain of studies have found an overwhelming amount of people who test positive for Covid-19 do not have enough vitamin D in their bodies and the sickest of patients are often deficient. 

Scientists have not yet been able to pin down whether the nutrient deficiency is making people more vulnerable to the disease or whether becoming unwell causes vitamin D levels to crash.

But vitamin D supplements are safe, cheap and readily available - costing as little as 6p a pill and sold in most pharmacies, supermarkets and health shops - which has left experts baffled as to why Mr Hancock would be so quick to dismiss them.

Two leading leading doctors told MailOnline that politicians and scientists were so hellbent on getting a vaccine - the Government has pumped hundreds of millions into jab development projects - that they had overlooked the potential of vitamin D and boosting people's immune systems, which they say is a far less glamorous option.   

In other developments today, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced Turkey and Poland are being added to the Government's travel quarantine 'red list' - but holidays to Greece and are still allowed.

As of 4am on Saturday anyone returning from Turkey or Poland, as well as the Caribbean islands of Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba, must quarantine for 14 days.

There had been speculation that restrictions were going to be imposed on and Greece after a spike in cases but the two nations were ultimately given a reprieve.

Mr Shapps tweeted this evening: 'TRAVEL CORRIDOR UPDATE: The latest data indicates we need to remove Turkey, Poland, and Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba from the #TravelCorridor list this week.

The number of people testing positive for Covid-19 in England soared by 61 per cent in the week ending September 23, up to more than 31,000 from 19,000 the week before

The number of people testing positive for Covid-19 in England soared by 61 per cent in the week ending September 23, up to more than 31,000 from 19,000 the week before

Fury after Matt Hancock wrongly said trial had found NO evidence vitamin D works

As well as in supplements, vitamin D is also available through foods, including oily fish, red meat and eggs (right). A Singaporean study earlier in the year of nearly 800 people found almost 99% of Covid-19 patients who died had vitamin D deficiency (left)

As well as in supplements, vitamin D is also available through foods, including oily fish, red meat and eggs (right). A Singaporean study earlier in the year of nearly 800 people found almost 99% of Covid-19 patients who died had vitamin D deficiency (left)

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was told to 'get his facts straight' today after shooting down vitamin D as a potential coronavirus treatment despite a growing body of evidence from around the world suggesting it works.

Experts have for months been calling for officials to look into the immune system-boosting nutrient's effect on Covid-19 patients after a mountain of research showed a link to vitamin D deficiency.

Mr Hancock told the House of Commons last week he had green-lit a Government-funded 'trial' investigating vitamin D and that it did not 'appear to have any impact'.

But officials have since admitted that no clinical trials had taken place and claim it was a slip of the tongue from the health secretary - who was also staunchly opposed to face masks in the spring and claimed they were 'extremely weak' in stopping Covid-19's spread.

Officials estimate one in five Britons are deficient in vitamin D — the equivalent of 13million Britons. But the rate is up to 90 per cent in people with darker skin, such as BAME populations who are known to be at greater risk from Covid-19.

Mr Hancock has now agreed to meet experts to to hear the growing case for the vitamin, which the body produces when exposed to the sun. But his flippant dismissal of vitamin D has sparked fury among scientists and MPs who today said time is running out for ministers to act, as levels of the 'sunshine vitamin' drop dramatically in autumn and winter.

Experts said his comments 'displayed incredible ignorance', while Liberal Democrat MP Layla Morgan told MailOnline the secretary of state 'needs to be listening, not dismissing'. She added: 'I hope Matt Hancock will take a less flippant approach to potential treatments in future and get his facts straight before making such comments. We're in a crisis, it's time for politicians to stop playing science and listen to the experts.'

A mountain of studies have found an overwhelming amount of people who test positive for Covid-19 do not have enough vitamin D in their bodies and the sickest of patients are often deficient. Scientists have not yet been able to pin down whether the nutrient deficiency is making people more vulnerable to the disease or whether becoming unwell causes vitamin D levels to crash.

But vitamin D supplements are safe, cheap and readily available - costing as little as 6p a pill and sold in most pharmacies, supermarkets and health shops - which has left experts baffled as to why Mr Hancock would be so quick to dismiss them.

Two leading leading doctors told MailOnline that politicians and scientists were so hellbent on getting a vaccine - the Government has pumped hundreds of millions into jab development projects - that they had overlooked the potential of vitamin D and boosting people's immune systems, which they say is a far less glamorous option.

Advertisement

'This means if you arrive from these destinations from 4am Saturday 3 October, you will need to self-isolate.'

He added: 'You MUST self-isolate if you enter the UK from a non-exempt country - from tomorrow, we’re increasing the penalties for people who refuse to do so to a maximum of £10,000 for repeat offenders.'

There were fears earlier today that Greece and could be subject to quarantine rules after the former recorded 20.5 cases per 100,000 people in recent days while was at slightly above 20 per 100,000.

The Government currently uses a threshold of 20 cases per 100,000, along with a number of other criteria, when it makes decisions on whether to add or remove countries from its quarantine list.

Today's announcement by Mr Shapps means holidays are only currently possible without any restrictions at either end to Germany, Sweden, , mainland Greece, Gibraltar, San Marino and Liechtenstein. 

In economic news today, ministers are bracing for unemployment to hit four million over the winter months as pub bosses warned a quarter of staff are facing redundancy when furlough ends.

The Office for Budget Responsibility spending watchdog has forecast that unemployment could peak at 12 per cent by the end of the year, the equivalent of four million workers.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey has revealed her department is preparing on the basis of that prediction and is bolstering the Universal Credit benefits system ahead of an expected surge in claims.

However, she insisted ministers 'genuinely hope we don't reach, obviously, that figure'.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is ending the furlough scheme at the end of this month and replacing it with a less generous wage subsidy programme to help people who can work part-time in 'viable' jobs.

Experts have warned the move to the Jobs Support Scheme will inevitably lead to widespread job losses as the Government removes help for so-called 'zombie' roles with no future.

The OBR has forecast in its 'central' coronavirus economic scenario that unemployment will peak at four million at the end of 2020.

In its 'downside' forecast with 13 per cent unemployment the number is even higher at 4.5 million.

giant H&M today announced its plan to shut 250 stores worldwide, while Burger King prepares to axe 1,600 UK staff.

The world's second largest clothing retailer said around a quarter of its 5,000 stores are able to renegotiate or exit contracts next year, allowing it to close some stores.

H&M is not yet disclosing details on the number of job losses or store closures in the UK that are expected to take place as a result of the plan.

Meanwhile, fast-food giant Burger King plans to permanently close some of its UK branches in a restructuring deal brought about by the pandemic.

It comes amid the Covid-19 bloodbath on the high street, with 195,331 job losses now announced by major British employers since the start of lockdown in March.

It was also revealed today that Jeremy Corbyn broke the 'Rule of Six' at a dinner held to remember the late Occupy Wall Street organiser David Graeber.

The former Labour leader, 71 and his wife Laura Alvarez, 51, joined his widow, the artist Nika Dubrovsky, for the London meal.

Mr Graeber, 59, died suddenly early last month in Venice and had been widely credited with helping to organise Occupy and its 'We are the 99%' slogan.

A picture that emerged of the gathering prompted Corbyn to apologise for breaking coronavirus restrictions on the number of people meeting in a household.

The former Labour leader had paid tribute to him in a special film last month and explained how he had become such good friends.   

'We do not accept these measures': Middlesbrough's mayor leads backlash against lockdown as town is placed into same strict regime as North East along with Liverpool as Government plots 'three-tier traffic light' system for UK restrictions

Independent Andy Preston lashed out after Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs the town, along with Liverpool, Hartlepool and Warrington would face the same curbs as the North East

Independent Andy Preston lashed out after Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs the town, along with Liverpool, Hartlepool and Warrington would face the same curbs as the North East

Boris Johnson was facing a coronavirus revolt in the north today as the elected mayor of Middlesbrough vowed to 'defy' new lockdown measures, accusing ministers of 'ignorance' after they brought in strict new measures for its population.

Independent Andy Preston lashed out after Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs the town, along with Liverpool, Hartlepool and Warrington would face the same curbs as the North East. 

In a video message Mr Preston said they went further than he and other local politicians had lobbied for, and in what is believed to be a first for a local politician, rejected the measures outlined in the Commons. 

Middlesbrough and Hartlepool councils had asked for a ban on households mixing in their own homes. But Mr Hancock announced it would also be illegal for households in those boroughs to mix in a public setting such as a pub.

'I have to tell you I think this measure has been introduced based on factual inaccuracies and a monstrous and frightening lack of communication, and ignorance,' Mr Preston said in a video posted on Twitter.

'I do not accept the statement at all. I do not accept these measures. We need to talk to government, they need to understand our local knowledge, expertise and ability to get things done, and preserve jobs and well-being.

'We are really disappointed. As things stand we defy the Government and we do not accept these measures.

'We need to get Covid under control and we need to work with people to find a way of preserving jobs and mental health.'

As head of the local council Mr Preston has no official powers to over-rule the decision taken by ministers. But he could, in theory, prevent council staff from helping to enforce the pub closures and household meeting ban - though there has been no suggestion yet that he would.

The confirmation comes despite Mr Hancock hailing 'early' indications that the nationwide Rule of Six and 10pm pubs curfew are already bringing cases under control - and downgrading the swingeing measures in place in Bolton.

Meanwhile, there are signs that ministers are scrambling to simplify the rules after even the premier became muddled this week. A 'traffic light' system could be introduced to show what restrictions are in place for different regions, with three tiers of intensity. 

There are hopes could help free up some parts of the South that have dramatically lower rates of infection than the North.  

'There's no way people are going to stay at home': Furious residents of Middlesbrough join mayor in protest against lockdown measures 

Furious locals in Middlesbrough today backed mayor Andy Preston in his defiance of the Government's new coronavirus restrictions.   

Sarah Best, 28, who owns the Sherlock's and Dr Watson's bars in the North Yorkshire town, said she had feared she would have to close her doors in as little as three weeks under the latest rules. 

She said: 'When people can only go the pub with members of their own household it's obviously going to reduce trade even more. 

'The 10pm curfew has been bad enough and it doesn't work. People gather in the street and can't get taxis because everyone has to leave at once. 

Landlady Sarah Best, 28, said she had feared she would have to close her doors in as little as three weeks under the latest rules

Landlady Sarah Best, 28, said she had feared she would have to close her doors in as little as three weeks under the latest rules

'We're just hanging on and if things don't change I might have to close the doors in three weeks, that's how bad it is. I really think customers will rebel, especially if the mayor is backing us. 

'We'll listen to Andy, we get more support and back from the mayor than we do from government.  How do you enforce this rule anyway? I'm not going to be asking customers for utility bills.' 

Nicola Brogan and Paula Hoare, both 27, added the rules are now 'so confused that it's impossible to enforce' them.  

'It's crazy that we can't see relatives who need to see people to stay in touch but you can come down to the pub,' Ms Hoare said.

Nicola Brogan

Paula Hoare

Nicola Brogan (left) and Paula Hoare (right), both 27, added the rules are now 'so confused that it's impossible to enforce' them

'The mayor is sticking up for the town where there is already massive poverty.' 

Ms Brogan added: 'I worked with the mayor on a charity project and he's a very well liked and respected guy. I think people will listen to what he thinks more than the government.'

Liam Watson, 24, said: 'There's no way people are going to stay at home and not go to the pub when you've got the mayor saying 'defy the ban.'

'Good for him. He's sticking up for people and trying to stop businesses going bust and if it comes down to it I'd rather listen to our local leader than some muppet at Westminster. They don't know anything about us.' 

However, Craig Kevin, 47, who works in a fast food stall, said Mr Preston had merely 'added to the confusion' with his video statement.    

'Andy Preston has added to the confusion and I think people will just decide to carry on as normal because they don't actually believe any of them,' he said. 

'Boris Johnson didn't even know the rules as they apply to the North East when he was asked the other day so what chance do the public have, especially when national and local Government are saying different things.'

Nathaniel Lawton, 42, was today having a drink with friends outside the town's Swatter's Carr

Nathaniel Lawton, 42, was today having a drink with friends outside the town's Swatter's Carr

Nathaniel Lawton, 42, was today having a drink with friends outside the town's Swatter's Carr. 

He said: 'It's funny to see Andy Preston saying 'defy the law' when he was the one who was asking for stricter rules in the first place. 

'He decided MIddlesbrough needed restrictions but he hasn't got the ones he wanted which he should maybe have seen coming. 

'There will always be those who adhere to the rules and those who don't. No matter what anybody says, whether it's the government or the mayor, people will decide the law doesn't apply to them. 

'It's being spread anyway through offices and schools so I can't see the restrictions making that much difference.' 

Advertisement

Results from the largest Covid-19 study in England found the R-rate fell from 1.7 to around 1.1 last month.

But the director of the study, by Imperial College London and Ipsos Mori, said the interim findings from 80,000 participants 'reinforced the need for protective measures' to help extinguish the virus.

Mr Hancock told the Commons: 'The study published today shows us hope that we can crack this.'

However, he again defied calls for the 10pm curfew on pubs to be lifted amid claims it is doing 'more harm than good'. Mr Hancock's positive message on the findings of the study contrasted sharply with the grim message from Boris Johnson, Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance at a Downing Street press conference last night. 

The PM and his senior medical and science advisers warned that the outbreak was 'going in the wrong direction' - even though it is understood they were aware of the latest Imperial findings in advance. 

Liverpool had been braced for more measures to curb a recent rise in infections that has left it with the highest rolling seven-day rate of new cases at 258 per 100,000, while nearby Knowsley is second at 262. 

In addition, Luton, Wakefield, Chester, East and West Cheshire, Barrow-in-Furness and Rotherham have been added to the Government's watchlist as 'areas of concern'. 

And Sheffield has been moved up to an area of 'enhanced support', suggesting it could be the next to be placed in lockdown.

Areas of concern are the focus of targeted actions to reduce the prevalence of coronavirus, for example receiving additional testing in care homes and increased community engagement with high-risk groups.

Areas for enhanced support are those at a medium-high risk of intervention where there is a more detailed plan, agreed with the national authorities.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called for a 'rapid review' of the local lockdown strategy and urged the Government to consider whether the 10pm curfew should remain.    

'We have supported these restrictions, but we have now got - after this morning's announcement - over 50 areas in local restrictions and over the weeks and months only one area has come out of these restrictions,' he said.

'So we need a strategy, a road map, people need to have hope that this is going to work.'

He told reporters at Westminster that the Government needed to 'massively improve' the way it communicated and provide economic support for areas at the same time restrictions were imposed.

'I think we need a rapid review of the local lockdowns because what we are seeing is that in some areas in lockdown the infection rates are going up, not down.

'That's worrying and there needs to be a review into that. In other areas they have been in local lockdown for months and so there needs to be a rapid review - what's working, what isn't working, what does the science tell us about that.'

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Hancock was repeatedly challenged over the blanket 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants in England. 

There were complaints that people have been causing issues by piling out of venues and going to the supermarket for more alcohol, or having house parties instead. 

But Mr Hancock said: 'Of course, we keep this under review and of course we're constantly looking at how we can improve these policies, but I think we've got to look at both sides of the evidence to try to get this right.'

He added: 'We know that sustained contact, especially in crowded, poorly ventilated spaces is a driver of infection and pubs and bars an obvious risk.

'So I heard what he said about the 10pm rule, but my concerns relate to everybody leaving the pub at the same time.'

Warrington Borough Council leader Russ Bowden said: 'These restrictions are disappointing for our town but are, again, a necessary response in helping us to drive down the number of case of coronavirus in Warrington.

'Now more than ever, we need to do all we can to stop the spread of the virus.'

He added: 'I'm aware the Government has announced a support package for affected councils as part of the announcement of these new restrictions.

'I await the detail on what this funding could mean but it's clear that, as part of these strict new measures, we need to do all we can to support affected businesses - not least our hospitality industry which will, again, be seriously impacted by these new restrictions.

'We will, therefore, continue to work closely with Government and press them for the support our hospitality sector needs during this increasingly difficult period.'

Earlier, Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson called for a two-week 'circuit-breaker' lockdown to restrict the virus from spreading. 

But his colleague, Metro Mayor Steve Rotherham, repeated his opposition to the proposal, which he insisted was never discussed as an option when he spoke to Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty.  

The elected mayor of Middlesbrough said he was prepared to defy the Government and reject new coronavirus measures imposed on the town in what was thought to be a first for an authority figure.

Independent Andy Preston was furious with the new rules which go further than he and his counterparts in Hartlepool had lobbied for earlier in the week. 

Simon Clarke, Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, had been opposed to extra measures and spoke in the Commons earlier about the need for a clear exit strategy.

In response to the new rules, he said: 'I would like to personally thank Mr Hancock for ensuring that a clear,

read more from dailymail.....

NEXT How using stem cells from your TUMMY FAT could restore your hair