Stoke-on-Trent, Coventry and Slough will be placed into tier 2 local lockdown from Saturday, Matt Hancock has announced.
Speaking in the Commons on Thursday, the health secretary also said discussions are formally beginning with Warrington about moving to tier 3 restrictions.
“I hope that with everybody supporting these measures and taking the actions that are necessary, we can keep these restrictions in place for as little time as possible,” he said.
Tier 1: medium
Nationwide restrictions, including:
Only meet other people in groups of six or less (“rule of six”)
10pm curfew for hospitality
Tier 2: high
As Tier 1, plus:
No households allowed to mix indoors. “Rule of six” applies outdoors including private gardens
Tier 3: very high
As Tier 1 plus:
No households allowed to mix indoors or outdoors
All pubs and bars to close unless they can operate as a restaurant
People advised against travel in and out of areas
Hancock also said the government will give councils powers to use closure notices to shut premises on public health grounds without delay.
It came as billions of pounds of extra help was been announced for firms and workers hit by coronavirus restrictions.
The package, announced by chancellor Rishi Sunak on Thursday, includes making the Job Support Scheme, which replaces the current furlough system, more generous.
There will also be grants of £2,100 available for firms in tier 2 areas of England, primarily aimed at helping hospitality and leisure venues which have seen takings plummet due to a restrictions on households mixing.
In a move which could be worth more than £1 billion, these grants will also be available retrospectively for areas which have already been subject to restrictions, and come on top of higher levels of additional business support for areas moving into tier 3.
The move to make the payments retrospective is aimed at heading off criticism from areas of northern England which have been under restrictions for months.
Instead of only being open to people in “viable” jobs working a third of their normal hours, the Job Support Scheme will now cover employees doing just 20% of their usual work.
The amount that employers are required to pay to top up their wages has also been reduced to just 5% of unworked hours, down from 33%.
Extra help for the self-employed will see the amount covered by grants increase from 20% of profits to 40%, meaning the maximum payout will increase from £1,875 to £3,750.