The government placed more than 23m (41.48%) people into the toughest tier 3 restrictions on Thursday, with more than 32m (57.25%) in tier 2, which has been made more stringent during the current lockdown.
Cornwall was the only place on the English mainland to fall under tier 1, joined by the Isle of Wight and the Isles of Scilly, with the three areas covering just 713,573 people – or 1.27% of the population.
The decision was met with a backlash from the prime minister’s own MPs, who went as far as describing the measures as “authoritarian” and demanded the publication of a cost-benefit analysis of the restrictions.
In the Commons, health secretary Matt Hancock faced a litany of Tory critics, with only a handful at best expressing support.
The West Midlands’ Tory metro mayor Andy Street called for “clear epidemiological evidence” as to why hospitality must close in tier 3.
Street described the decision to put his combined authority in tier 3 as “very disappointing, particularly given the personal sacrifices people have already made and the economic impact it will have on our towns and cities”.
The mayor also said the £3,000 monthly grant scheme was “insufficient” for small- and medium-sized firms forced to close, particularly in hospitality, and called for more financial support including business rates relief for the conference and exhibition sector.
Damian Green, the former cabinet minister who leads the “one nation” group of moderate Tory backbenchers, questioned whether the current four-week national lockdown had achieved anything, given that areas including Kent and Bristol had been placed in harsher tiers than they were in before.
Mark Harper, the former chief whip who chairs the 70-strong lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group of backbench Tories, criticised the government for failing to publish a cost-benefit analysis of restrictions “in full and in time” ahead of a vote on the measures on Tuesday.
The group’s vice chair Steve Baker meanwhile described the measures as “authoritarian”.
Senior MPs William Wragg, Tobias Ellwood and Sir Robert Syms were among those who signalled they would vote against the measures.
Andy Burnham, the Labour mayor of Greater Manchester, meanwhile said it was “completely wrong” for the government to provide no additional business support to areas in tier 3, where hospitality is ordered to close for all but takeaways.
Responding to calls for extra support, a Downing Street spokesperson told reporters: “The chancellor set out the financial support that is available to businesses and I would point to the fact that we have extended this to April next year, including furlough which will benefit people up and down the country.”