Merseyside is set to become the latest area to come under local lockdown controls as a major study suggested restrictions in northern England are pushing down the spread of the disease.
Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson said he is expecting an announcement on restrictions on Thursday following a Covid-19 co-ordinating meeting chaired by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
He said the measures could be even tougher than those imposed in the North East of England, where households have been banned from mixing in public venues.
He told BBC Breakfast: “We’ve already been told there will be restrictions and regulations put in place similar to Newcastle and the North East, so we expect that, but potentially also the Government might introduce even stricter measures.”
As local lockdowns come into force in Denbighshire, Flintshire, Conwy and Wrexham in North Wales from 6pm on Thursday, more than a third of the UK population will be subject to some form of extra controls.
It comes after Mr Johnson told a Downing Street news conference on Wednesday that he will not hesitate to impose further measures if required to curb the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, 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, although the country remains at “a very critical period”.
He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “We’ve seen the doubling time – from the last time we did the survey to now – has reduced to about 10 days… from seven to eight days, so that has been slowing.
“In the very recent data, it does seem to be that increases seem to be turning down, but from high levels of the virus.
“So we really need to get the virus turning down and the R value going below one, and we haven’t yet seen that.
“At the moment, we seem to be still at very high levels of the virus, and we do seem to still have a bit of an upward trajectory, but that very fast increase in the virus seems to have slowed and that’s very encouraging.”
He said there is “wide uncertainty” around the reproductive number – the R number – which the study estimates to be around 1.1.
The research, based on the testing of more than 80,000 volunteers across England from September 18-26, found around one in 200 people were infected with coronavirus.
Around 55 people per 10,000 tested positive, an increase on the 13 people per 10,000 in the previous study between August 24 and September 7, suggesting 411,000 people in England have the virus.
Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who now chairs the Commons Health and Social Care Committee, said local lockdowns may have prevented the current second wave of infections from taking hold across the country.
He told the Today programme: “I think the evidence from what happened earlier in the year, not just in this country but all over the world, is that acting early, decisively, quickly, is actually the best way to contain the spread of the virus.
“We didn’t manage to do that first time round but it just may be that these local lockdowns, although we haven’t seen a big reduction in transmission within those areas, they may just have contained it and stopped it from becoming the national outbreak that we had before.”