People living in Liverpool, Warrington, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough will be placed under stricter lockdown restrictions, Matt Hancock has announced.
Under the new rules, people will be banned from mixing with those they do not live with “all settings” apart from outdoor public spaces.
“We recommend against all social-mixing between people in different households,” the health secretary told the Commons on Thursday.
“We will bring in regulations, as we have in the North East, to prevent in law social mixing between people in different households in all settings except outdoor public spaces like parks and outdoor hospitality.
“We also recommend that people should not attend professional or amateur sporting events as spectators in the areas that are affected.
He added: “We recommend that people only visit care homes in exceptional circumstances and there will be guidance against all but essential travel. Essential travel, of course, includes going to work or school.”
Boris Johnson on Wednesday warned he “will not hesitate” to introduce harsher coronavirus restrictions across the country as hospital admissions increase.
The prime minister said no matter how “fed up” people were of the measures being imposed, they were the only way to curb the spread of the virus.
His comments at a Downing Street press conference were echoed by a warning from England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty, who said there was a “long winter ahead of us”.
It comes as a large-scale study has found evidence that the measures introduced in the north-east and north-west of England are having an effect.
Professor Paul Elliott, director of the React study – the largest research of its kind in England – said the most recent data suggests the rate of infection is slowing.
But in an interview with BBC Radio 4′s Today programme he said the country remains in “a very critical period”.