About 34 million people in England – around 60% of the population – are expected to be subject to the highest level of coronavirus restrictions as London, most of Essex and parts of Hertfordshire move to level 3 on Wednesday after midnight.
Matt Hancock, the Secretary of Health, announced the measures earlier this week following an increase in cases and the discovery of a new strain of Covid-19 in the southeast.
The level 3 crossing will close all pubs, cafes and restaurants – although takeout and delivery will remain – and restrict people from meeting friends and family in a limited number of outdoor public spaces, including parks.
Indoor entertainment venues, such as theaters and cinemas, are to remain closed and sports fans are not allowed to attend stadium events.
In addition to all of London’s interior and exterior, the stricter restrictions will cover southern and western Essex, including Basildon, Brentwood, Harlow, Epping Forest, Castle Point, Rochford, Braintree, Thurrock, Southend and Chelmsford.
In Hertfordshire, the towns of Broxbourne, Hertsmere, Watford and Three Rivers will also enter level 3.
They join Kent, Medway and Slough in the south-east, as well as much of the Midlands, north-west and north-east, which were already below the strictest level.
It comes as rates of Covid-19 cases are rising in more than three-quarters of all local areas in England, according to the latest data.
In total, 246 of 315 local governments (78%) saw a weekly rate hike in the seven days leading up to December 11.
This includes each borough of London, 42 of the 45 local areas in the east of England and 66 of the 67 local areas in the south-east of England.
In the North West of England, where rates had previously fallen across most of the region, the latest figures show they are up in almost two-thirds of areas (25 out of a total of 39).
All figures are based on data from Public Health England released Tuesday afternoon.
Additional reports by the PA