BRITS faced fresh Covid misery last night after millions more were placed under Tier 3 restrictions amid fears of a New Year lockdown grew.
A further 5.2million people will be living under the toughest rules from midnight on Friday — including the Queen at Windsor Castle.
They will bring the total number in Tier 3 areas to 38.4million people — two-thirds of the country.
Fears of a third national lockdown next month soared after families in Northern Ireland were told they face a six-week clamp after Christmas.
Wales will be put into a three-week shutdown in a bid to curb an expected surge in cases after festivities.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock yesterday ordered more chunks of the South East into Tier 3.
He said soaring Covid rates meant it was necessary to condemn more towns and cities to the harshest rules.
Clobbered businesses — particularly the hard-hit hospitality sector — warned of fresh job losses as a result.
The Tier 3 restrictions mean millions will miss out on going to the traditional Boxing Day races or football.
Nor will they be able to enjoy a Christmas drink down their local boozer as all pubs will shut.
In England, No10 did not rule out another national lockdown. But Downing Street sources insisted they want to give the toughened tiers a chance before pressing the nuclear button.
A Whitehall source told HOAR that leading medic Professor Chris Whitty is “in regular contact with the other Chief Medical Officers across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland”.
The source warned: “They often come to the same conclusions.”
The PM’s spokesman said: “We’ve been clear of the rationale behind the tiered regional approach.
“That is designed to reduce the rate of transmission and reduce the R rate in areas of high prevalence.
“As we’ve said throughout, we will obviously keep the latest data and the latest trends under review.”
Ministers are terrified Britain’s hospitals will quickly fill up in the New Year due to Covid, flu and annual winter pressures.
They are braced for a third Covid wave to erupt in the wake of Christmas mingling.
They watched in horror as America saw rocketing numbers of Covid hospital admissions and deaths after the Thanksgiving holiday.
Mr Hancock announced that large parts of the South East including Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, the whole of Hertfordshire, and Peterborough, will now go into Tier 3.
They will be joined by most of Surrey, Hastings and Rother on the Kent/East Sussex border and Portsmouth, Gosport and Havant in Hampshire.
In a rare ray of hope, Bristol and North Somerset will be moved down into Tier 2. Herefordshire is dropping into Tier 1 amid plummeting infection rates.
But Mr Hancock sparked fury as he dashed hopes that parts of Greater Manchester, Leeds and areas in the Midlands will be moved down.
The ultra-hardline stance sparked mutiny on the Tory backbenches.
Senior Tory MP Sir Graham Brady, whose local area of Trafford in Greater Manchester was kept in Tier 3 despite falling Covid rates, lashed the decision.
He pointed out that Trafford’s infection rates were lower than Warrington, Cheshire East and Bristol which are all in Tier 2.
Mr Brady said: “It makes no sense. It will be greeted with dismay.
“It is a devastating blow for businesses, especially in the hospitality sector. I worry many may not reopen.”
‘NO ROADMAP TO GET OUT’
Tory MP William Wragg — whose local patch Stockport is stuck in Tier 3 despite having one of England’s lowest rates — said he was “immensely disappointed”.
Labour’s Andrew Gwynne, who represents a seat in Tameside, Greater Manchester, said: “We are being held back and punished because of the Government’s botched Christmas relaxation rules.
“We are trapped in a tiering system with no roadmap to get out.”
Meanwhile Tory MP Greg Smith, whose constituency of Buckingham was ordered into Tier 3 yesterday, branded the move “deeply disappointing”.
He added: “I cannot look a single one of my constituents in the eye and say that I believe these measures are reasonable or proportionate to the place we find ourselves across the Buckingham constituency, with respect to Covid-19.”
Greg Mulholland, boss of the Campaign for Pubs, warned that many more boozers are at risk of being killed off for good because of the latest Tier 3 moves.
He said: “This is a nightmare before Christmas.
“The Government has strung people along with the prospect of opening for Christmas, then moved the goalposts yet again — and at the same time, closed thousands of other pubs a week before Christmas.
“The Government either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care that their failing strategy is destroying livelihoods and consigning many pubs to history.”
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