Bournemouth, Christchurch, Poole and the rest of Dorset will remain under Tier 2 of the coronavirus restrictions.

Matt Hancock gave an update to the House of Commons following the first formal review of the Tier system.

Mr Hancock said case rates in the south of England are up 46 per cent in the last week while hospital admissions are up by more than a third, adding in the east of England cases are up two thirds and hospital admissions up by nearly half in the last week.

He told the Commons: “It is therefore necessary to apply Tier 3 measures across a much wider area of the east and south east of England, including Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Peterborough, the whole of Hertfordshire, Surrey with the exception of Waverley, Hastings and Rother on the Kent border of East Sussex, and Portsmouth, Gosport and Havant in Hampshire.”

The changes will take effect from 0001 on Saturday.

The whole of Dorset, both BCP Council and Dorset Council areas, were placed in Tier 2 when the national lockdown ended on December 2.

Under the Tier 2 measures households are unable to mix indoors with the rule of six applying outdoors.

Bournemouth West MP Conor Burns and Poole MP Sir Robert Syms were among those backing calls for the county to be moved into Tier 1 measures.

In a letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock on December 11, Mr Burns MP said: “On the basis of this vastly-improved situation, I urge the Government to move Bournemouth, Christchurch, Poole and Dorset to Tier 1 in the forthcoming review.”

Speaking earlier this week, Sam Crowe, Dorset and BCP Councils director of public health, said: “Locally, we have seen the reduction in case rates level off and plateau in recent days and our hospital system remains under pressure. In terms of case rates, we are now at a similar level as at the end of September and early October, when we had seen cases start to increase rapidly.

“We do need to take a cautious approach in changing restrictions; if we leave Tier 2 too soon, we could see cases start to increase quickly again and be forced back into more drastic measures. Covid-19 is very much still with us so we must not become complacent.”

Figures published on Friday, showed 249 cases were confirmed in the BCP area between November 29 and December 5, compared to 339 the previous week.

In Dorset, 150 cases were recorded during the same period, down from 167 the previous seven days.

The rate per 100,000 people for the BCP area was 63.0 and in Dorset was 39.6. These were 85.8 and 44.1 respectively the previous week.

Yesterday, Boris Johnson advised people to minimise contacts before seeing loved ones at Christmas, and to avoid travelling from high prevalence areas to ones that are not so badly affected.

Mr Johnson said: “While it would not be right to criminalise people who made plans and simply want to spend time with their loved ones, we’re collectively, across the UK, governments at every level, asking you to think hard and in detail about the days ahead.

“We’re keeping the laws the same but we all want to send the same message: a smaller Christmas is going to be a safer Christmas and a shorter Christmas is a safer Christmas."

More follows.