Leeds is poised to be added to the list of areas in England facing stringent coronavirus restrictions on Friday, which would bring to more than 10 million the number of people across the UK having to live with enhanced measures designed to control the spread of infections.
The need for new controls in the West Yorkshire city was discussed at a “gold command” meeting chaired by the health secretary, Matt Hancock, just hours after it emerged that the north-east would be placed under new restrictions.
The constraints are likely to include shutting social venues such as pubs and restaurants at 10pm, and limiting contact between separate households. Infection rates in Leeds remain lower than some other hard-hit cities, but have been increasing rapidly, prompting ministers to act.
There was also speculation on Thursday night that new curbs could be imposed in Lancashire with reports saying the whole county, with the exception of parts of Blackpool, would be covered by more stringent restrictions.
A government source said the more precisely targeted “whack-a-mole” method of containing the disease by tackling individual outbreaks was increasingly giving way to a regional approach. “If you look at the numbers, that’s the way the infection is spreading,” they said.