ONE in three Brits will be living in lockdown by tomorrow — as figures show infection rates are already plummeting.
A study by Imperial College shows the R rate — how many people each case infects — has fallen from 1.7 to 1.1 in less than a month.
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The research is based on 84,610 swabs taken between September 18 and 26. The “rule of six” took effect nationwide on September 14, just four days before the study began.
A nationwide curfew on pubs and restaurants kicked in on September 24, two days before the study ended.
It raises the possibility that infection rates were already drastically falling before the lockdowns and curfew were introduced.
Professor Robert Dingwall, of Nottingham Trent University, said: “The study shows the R rate was already falling significantly before the curfew was introduced so it begs the question of whether it was needed.
“I continue to have concerns about whether the curfew will work or just shift the problematic behaviour into the street, transport and homes.”
It came as another two million people in Liverpool, Warrington, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough were hit by new restrictions.
Across England, some 22.4million people will now be living under Draconian rules that ban friends and family from meeting up indoors unless they live together.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the cities have to be put into local lockdowns because their infection rates have shot up.
And he warned locals they must stick to the rules or face the restrictions for many months to come.
In a stormy Commons session, he said: “I understand how much of an imposition this is. I want rules like this to stay in place for as short a time as possible, I’m sure we all do.
“The study published today shows us hope that together we can crack this and the more people follow the rules and reduce their social contact, the quicker we can get Liverpool and the North East back on their feet.”
The rules mean it will now be illegal for people in those areas to meet with friends and family indoors if they do not live together. Flouting the rules carries a fine of £200.
People are also being urged not to meet anyone outdoors — although this is not against the law.
Ministers are also advising against all non-essential travel in the areas.
But the slew of restrictions were slammed by some politicians.
Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston said: “As things stand, we defy the Government and we do not accept these measures.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called for a “rapid review” of the local lockdown strategy and for the 10pm curfew to be ditched.
But Mr Hancock warned there will be “hundreds of thousands of deaths” if they “let the virus rip”.
Professor Paul Elliott, of Imperial College London, said the country still remains at “a very critical period” with all ages being affected.
There were 6,914 new cases of the killer virus yesterday and 59 more deaths.
Meanwhile, data shows that three in ten people testing positive for Covid and identified by NHS Test and Trace could not be contacted.
FOUR out of five people with sudden loss of smell or taste at the height of the pandemic had Covid-19 antibodies, studies say.
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