Harsh Tier 3 lockdown could affect more than 21 million Brits within weeks

More than a third of the population of Britain could find themselves living under Tier 3 restrictions or their equivalent within weeks.

Up to 21 million people will be affected by the most severe social distancing laws as the Government desperately tries to get the second wave of coronavirus infections under control.

Three million people in Wales are facing a two-week "fire-breaker" lockdown from this Friday, meaning they'll have to stay home (except for a few limited purposes), not meet up with anyone they don't live with and wear face coverings in all indoor public spaces.

That is, the indoor public spaces that are still open — all pubs, bars and restaurants and most shops must close for two weeks, and secondary schools will provide online learning only after the half-term break.

In England, where the three-tiered local Covid alert level system has been in place for a little over a week, millions more will be placed into Tier 3 indicating a "very high" rate of infection.

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Liverpool City Region is currently the only area in Tier 3, but Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned swathes of South and West Yorkshire — including Sheffield and Leeds — could join them this week.

Areas in the North East and Nottinghamshire may also be put into Tier 3.

Last week Greater Manchester and Lancashire were designated as Tier 3, but Manchester authorities have so far refused to obey the harsh new rules unless the Government provides more financial support.

Mayor Andy Burnham, who says Downing Street's evidence for closing the city's pubs is dubious, was given until midday today to agree to a deal or have the restrictions forced on his people.

It remains unknown if Greater Manchester will be going into Tier 3 or remaining in Tier 2.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will provide answers in a 5pm briefing later today.

A further 13.1 million people would be affected if the move does go ahead, on top of 2.7 million currently living under Tier 3 in Merseyside and Lancashire.

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Outside of England, 3.4 million people in Scotland and 1.9 million in Northern Ireland are currently affected by their respective governments' own social distancing measures.

Meanwhile, the Republic of Ireland will enter a total six-week national lockdown on Wednesday which will last until December 1.

All non-essential shops will close and people will be asked to stay at home, with a 5km (3 mile) travel limit for exercise.

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Visits to private homes or gardens will not be allowed and there will be no group gatherings, except for tightly controlled weddings and funerals.

However, schools will remain open and construction will be allowed to continue.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly stressed that he will do everything he can to avoid a second national lockdown and will continue to take a localised three-tiered approach.

In Tier 3 areas, pubs and bars are required to close unless they can operate as restaurants, along with gyms.

Household mixing is banned except for in outdoor public spaces like parks.

Those in Tier 3 areas are "advised against" travelling in and out of the area unless necessary, and overnight stays in other areas are also banned.

The alert levels will be reviewed every four weeks and will not be in place indefinitely, the Prime Minister said.

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