MORE than 21million Brits are set to fall under tougher lockdown rules within weeks.
A third of the country faces the highest Tier 3 restrictions or “circuit-breaker” closures.
Today, three million people in Wales were told they will be under a two-week “fire-breaker” from Friday evening.
And Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned swathes of South and West Yorkshire — including Sheffield and Leeds — could be placed in Tier 3 this week.
Chunks of the North East and Nottinghamshire were put on a similar timetable.
Manchester could be forced into Tier 3 by Friday after talks with the Government broke down.
The moves would mean that a further 13.1million extra people would be hit within days.
That is on top of 2.7million already in Tier 3 in Merseyside and Lancashire, along with 3.4million people in Scotland and 1.9million in Northern Ireland.
Meanwhile, an emergency cabinet meeting in Dublin decided on a full six-week national lockdown from Wednesday night across the Republic of Ireland until December 1.
Schools will remain open and construction will be allowed to continue, and it was reported that elite sports including horse racing and Gaelic football will take place.
Tonight, Downing Street insisted it would persist with a localised approach.
A spokesman for Boris Johnson said: “We keep all of our measures under review but the PM has made very clear that he doesn’t want a return to something like a national lockdown and believes our three-tiered approach is the right way forward.”
Mr Hancock told MPs: “Following the introduction of measures in Liverpool and Lancashire, talks continue with Greater Manchester, and this week further discussions are planned with South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, the North East and Teesside.”
A Whitehall insider also said talks over a Tier 3 shutdown of Sheffield and South Yorkshire were “relatively far advanced”.
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford announced a return to March lockdown rules from Friday until November 8.
All pubs, restaurants, bars and non-essential shops will shut from 6pm.
After half-term, secondary schools will remain shut for an extra week for Year 9s and above.
Mr Drakeford said the lockdown would be a “short, sharp shock to turn back the clock, slow down the virus and give us more time”. But furious Tory MPs have accused him of “grand-standing”.
Data showed England had an average coronavirus infection rate of 166 per 100,000 people in the week up to October 14, while Wales had a rate of 163 per 100,000.
In Liverpool and Manchester, the figure has been more than 500 per 100,000.
Paul Davies, Conservative leader in the Welsh Assembly, warned: “This is not a two-week break to solve the pandemic. It is likely we will see regular lockdowns across the rest of the year.”
Talks between the Government and Greater Manchester’s Labour Mayor Andy Burnham over placing the city into Tier 3 broke down despite a £100million bail-out offer and predictions its intensive care beds could be overwhelmed by November 12.
According to government forecasts, Manchester’s second wave will be bigger than its first peak.
A Government spokesman said: “We are carefully considering the next steps.”
Tonight, Mr Burnham was looking increasingly isolated as it emerged Labour’s Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis is poised to agree to go into Tier 3.
Under the Tier 3 rules, people are banned from mixing with other households inside or outside.