HEALTH Secretary Matt Hancock has said 'it is time to take action' in Warrington following rising infection rates in the borough.

From midnight tonight, Monday, Warrington will move up into tier three, meaning people cannot socialise indoors with those they do not live with, bars must close unless they are serving meals and people should avoid travelling outside, or into the area, among other restrictions.

Following discussions with council leaders, it was agreed that additional closures will include betting shops, adult gaming centres, casinos and soft play centres and areas.

In Warrington, case rates remain some of the highest in the country, with around 361 people having the virus per 100,000 among all age groups.

Although infection rates were originally higher in the younger population, the borough is now seeing rises in the older population with case rates at 217 per 100,000 for over 60s, which is a 20 per cent rise on the previous week.

Mr Hancock said: "Infection rates are rising in Warrington, and we have agreed with local leaders that it’s time to take action.

"I know that these new measures will mean sacrifices must be made by the people in Warrington, and I want to extend my thanks to each and every one of them for recognising the severity of the situation and sticking to the rules.

"We have agreed a support package designed to help businesses while boosting efforts to control the virus locally, and will not hesitate to take similar action in any area of the country if infection rates continue to rise.

"Please remember - now is the time for us all to work together to get this virus under control."

The new measures include:

• People must not socialise with anybody they do not live with, or have not formed a support bubble with, in any indoor setting, in any private garden, or at most outdoor hospitality venues and ticketed events.

• People must not socialise in a group of more than six in an outdoor public space such as a park or beach, the countryside, a public garden or a sports venue.

• All pubs and bars must close, unless they are serving substantial meals and any alcohol must only be served alongside such a meal.

• People should try to avoid travelling outside the very high alert level or entering a very high alert level area, other than for work, education or for caring responsibilities or to travel through as part of a longer journey.

• Residents should avoid staying overnight in another part of the UK, and others should avoid staying overnight in the very high alert area.

Local government secretary Robert Jenrick added: "I thank local leaders in Warrington for the productive discussions we have had to help get the virus under control in the area as quickly as possible.

"I’m pleased that we were able to reach an agreement that ensures swift action is taken in accordance with public health advice.

"I recognise the huge impact this will have on the area and sacrifices that will need to be made.

"That’s why we have agreed an extensive package of support for local people, businesses and the council.

"The restrictions we have agreed together will only be in place for as long as they are absolutely necessary.

"They will be reviewed jointly in 28 days’ time.

"The Government is working with closely with local leaders as we tackle this challenge together, for the benefit of all the people of Warrington."