Hundreds of thousands more people will plunge into Tier 3 this week as new areas join the harshest lockdown.
Warrington will become the fourth area of England to join Tier 3 at midnight tonight, with pubs and bars forced to shut in the town of 210,000 people.
And parts of Nottinghamshire (population 1.2million) are expected to be next as local leaders met the government this afternoon.
Meanwhile Tier 3 talks are ongoing with West Yorkshire (2.3m), and were reopened with the North East (2.7m) but the status is unclear.
The government finally confirmed Warrington will enter Tier 3 this afternoon, days after the news was confirmed by MPs and the council.
Pubs and bars will be forced to shut unless they can operate as a restaurant, and can only serve alcohol with “substantial” meals.
People will be banned from meeting those not in their household or bubble, either indoors or in private outdoor spaces like gardens.
Travel in and out of the area will be advised against in the restrictions, which last 28 days before a review.
And on top of normal Tier 3 rules, betting and gaming shops, casinos and soft play centres in Warrington must shut.
The change means 7.5million people are now in Tier 3 in Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester, South Yorkshire and Warrington.
All or part of Nottinghamshire is widely expected to be the fifth region to enter a Tier 3 lockdown this week.
It’s understood council leaders in Nottinghamshire are pushing for a decision on entering Tier 3 today.
But sources said talks hit a road-block over the decision to involve just four of the county’s eight boroughs - Nottingham, Gedling, Broxtowe and Rushcliffe.
Talks last week were thought to have focused on those boroughs but since then infection rates in three of the other four areas - Mansfield, Ashfield and Bassetlaw - have been “rising by the minute”, a local source said.
Yet the councils for those areas were not involved in the initial talks.
The eighth borough is Newark - constituency of the Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick who has led Tier 3 lockdown talks.
A local source said leaders were “very close” to a agreement but admitted there were “a couple of hiccups they’re trying to iron out”.
It is still not clear where exactly in Nottinghamshire will be placed under Tier 3.
Nottingham South MP Lilian Greenwood said case rates were falling in the city and rising elsewhere in the county.
She said she had had no formal meetings since Friday and was trying to figure out why talks were dragging on so long.
She told the Mirror: “I’m a bit in the dark, if I’m brutally honest. I don’t really understand why - it didn’t seem like there was much to discuss when I spoke to them on Friday. So I don’t know what’s changed.”
Nottingham East MP Nadia Whittome said local officials had been “asked to sign last-minute agreements” to enter Tier 3, without knowing what funding they’ll get.
She told the Nottingham Post: “Nottingham City Council has already had to spend more than £30m from its own reserves to cover the cost of the pandemic.
"After years of cuts, council budgets are already badly overstretched and this can't go on for any longer.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said agreement had been made to move Warrington to the highest alert level as infection rates had surged to among the highest in the country.
Case rates are now at 361 people per 100,000 among all age groups, with infections among the over 60s rising by 20% in a week to 217 per 100,000 people.
He said: "I know that these new measures will mean sacrifices must be made by the people in Warrington, and I want to extend my thanks to each and every one of them for recognising the severity of the situation and sticking to the rules.
"We have agreed a support package designed to help businesses while boosting efforts to control the virus locally, and will not hesitate to take similar action in any area of the country if infection rates continue to rise.
"Please remember - now is the time for us all to work together to get this virus under control."