Almost every area that has been in Tier 3 restrictions, will remain under the tightest restrictions over Christmas so for at least another two weeks, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced.

Following the drop in infections, West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester had rallied hard in the hope that restrictions would ease, allowing the hardest hit hospitality sector to salvage what’s left of the festive period.

Vast areas of the South East and East of England have been moved up into Tier 3 from Tier 2 following sharp rises in infections. This follows London and parts of the South East being moved into Tier 3 earlier this week.

This means that 68% of England’s population – 38 million people – will be living in tier three from the weekend.

The only Tier 3 area which has been moved down to Tier 2 is Bristol and North Somerset, while Herefordshire has been moved from Tier 2 to Tier 1.

Some 30% of the population will be in tier two, while just 2% will be in tier one.

Announcing the outcome of the first formal review of the new tiering system in England, Matt Hancock told MPs: “We’ve come so far, we mustn’t blow it now.

“No-one wants tougher restrictions any longer than necessary”.

However, he added: “These are always the most difficult months for people’s health” and we “must keep suppressing this virus”.

He said the restrictions are “thankfully not the only tool we have to fight the disease” and that Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will “set out further detail on testing in schools” later.

It is expected to be announced later that the return to school in January will be staggered for secondary pupils in England, with some starting term online rather than in class.

In the South East, infections have risen by 46 per cent and hospital admissions by a third in the past week.

Councillor Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council, said: “Obviously we are very disappointed to be left in Tier 3 particularly when a tier change would have been a welcome relief before Christmas.

“We understand this decision will be difficult to hear, but which tier Leeds falls into is ultimately the Government’s to make and our view due to falling infection rates as well as the extensive plans we have in place is that Leeds could safely be moved to Tier 2.

“Now more than ever we cannot overstate the importance of continuing to adhere to the rules for just a little longer as our position will be reviewed again on December 30th and Leeds could find itself in a better position if our indicators continue to remain positive.”