BOTH of Cheshire’s councils have been named as ‘high alert level’ areas on the government’s new coronavirus ranking.

The news was confirmed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a statement to the House of Commons this afternoon.

The new ‘tier’ system was designed to ‘simplify and standardise local rules’ according to the PM, and has seen many northern boroughs added to the list.

Mr Johnson said Cheshire’s move to this tier was ‘primarily to reduce household to household transmission’, but warned that ‘further restrictions on the hospitality sector’ could be imposed if infection rates did not fall.

He also rejected calls for an all-out spring-style lockdown, saying: “I do not believe [that is] the right course. We would only be depriving children of their education. We would do such damage to the economy to erode the NHS and public services.”

For residents, it means mixing between households will be banned indoors, although support bubbles will still be permitted. The rule of 6 remains in force for meetings outside.

Responding, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “We are at a critical moment. We have all seen the clear and alarming trend in infection rates. We will look at the small print of the statement and we will discuss them with local mayors and councillors in the affected areas.

“I have to say to the Prime Minister — I am deeply skeptical that the government has a plan to get control of this virus. It increasingly feels like the Prime Minister is several steps behind the curve.”

Cheshire East and Cheshire West and Chester councils have been contacted for comment.