LONDON and Liverpool are expected to avoid being put in the highest Tier 3 when ministers reveal post-lockdown rules for each region of England today.
But Manchester is set to fall under the toughest restrictions and only a few rural areas will be in the lightest Tier 1 – meaning tens of millions of Brits will be banned from meeting indoors.
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London was last night expected to be put in the beefed-up Tier 2 when lockdown ends on December 2.
Matt Hancock is due to confirm which areas will be in which tier at 11.30am.
It comes after MPs warned of the economic disaster crippling restrictions could have on the capital in the run-up to Christmas.
The BBC's Laura Kuenssberg tweeted last night: "What happens next in lockdown matters for the economy too… after meetings tonight London's likely to be in Tier 2 along with most parts of England, only a handful of areas will be in Tier 1 with lightest limits, still significant numbers in Tier 3."
Meanwhile Liverpool is reportedly poised to be the first city to drop from Tier 3 to Tier 2.
It is being hailed as a success story after mass testing by the Army helped bring infection rates down to 162 per 100,000 people from 700 five weeks ago.
However Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham says he fears his city faces Tier 3 restrictions, despite falling infections.
Overall millions more people will move into higher tiers next week – dubbed "lockdown in all but name".
One Whitehall insider told The Sun: “The overwhelming majority of the country will be in Tier 2 and 3 – but there is still hope.”
Ministers tried to reassure concerned MPs last night restrictions could be eased in time for Christmas when tiers are reviewed in December 16.
It comes after backbenchers demanded the capital should be in Tier 1 in a desperate bid to help the economy recover after losing billions since the first lockdown in March.
Hospitality bosses warned three quarters of pubs, restaurants and cafes could go bust if the city isn’t placed into the lowest tier.
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, MP for Chingford and Woodford Green, told the Standard: “This looks like a political gesture to placate other areas.
"There is no reason to be moved from 2 to 3, and they should now publish the cost/benefit analysis on such action.”
Infection rates are going down throughout London, with more than half of boroughs seeing falls in confirmed cases in data up to November 19.
Many spots in central London are also seeing infection rates nearer that of previous criteria for Tier 1.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said earlier he expected the capital would be in Tier 2, and has spoken out against being shoved into Tier 3.
Nickie Aiken, MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, said: “I would be extremely disappointed if London is put into Tier 3.
“The near Herculean efforts many restaurants, cafes, casinos and cafes etc have put in place to make their premises Covid secure should be recognised.
“I have seen no data to date to provide the evidence that the capital should enter Tier 3 rather than 2.”
The London borough of Redbridge had the highest infection rate in the city with 298 cases per 100,000.
Tower Hamlets and Newham came in next with 228 cases per 100,000 and 228 per 100,000 respectively.
London and Manchester are both expected to be treated as single regions, rather than broken down by boroughs, because of the high movement of people across the metropolitan areas.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham insisted cases had been coming down, and infection rates were the best they had been for some time.
But he thinks the Government is likely to put the city into the toughest set of rules which could lead to thousands more job losses.
He told regional journalists on Wednesdsay: "I think it’s fair to say we are headed at some speed toward the Tier 3/Tier 2 borderline."
And he added that it's "more likely than not that the Government will put us in Tier 3".
But he said he wanted a serious review of the rules in two weeks' time to try and get the city out of it and into Tier 2.
Kent and Hull are regions that have seen sharp increases in infections as the tier announcement is imminent.
They are expected to move into higher tiers.
Liverpool, Greater Manchester, Warrington and parts of North Yorkshire were in the third tier before the second national lockdown and London was in Tier 2.
The newly tougher Tier 3 means pubs, restaurants and cafes have to shut – along with indoor entertainment.
People can't mix between households, either.
Boris Johnson has already admitted that more places will have to go into the top tier after the lockdown ends next week.
The Tiers system will be revealed in full today – with Matt Hancock making a statement in the House of Commons giving details for each local authority area.
The Top 10 areas with worst infection rates
All rates per 100,000
Swale – 539.7
Hull – 529.3,
Thanet – 491.8
East Lindsey – 470.6
Stoke-on-Trent – 453.6
Dudley – 452.1
Boston – 438.9
Sandwell – 435.7
Hyndburn – 435.6
Kirklees – 430.7
The Government hasn't spelled out the exact criteria for what will make an area go into which Tier.
Mr Johnson has said the allocation is based on "common sense" with a number of metrics used to decide how strongly to restrict areas.
These include case detection rates in the over 60s, the rate at which cases are falling or rising, pressure on the NHS and case detection rates in all age groups.
The number of positive cases found in a percentage of tests taken in certain areas will also come into consideration.
There are fears that most of the country could be put in Tier 2 or 3 – effectively banning people from seeing family and friends indoors until the spring.
Tories are already rounding on ministers to demand their areas stay out of the top level of restrictions.
They are demanding a cost benefit analysis and reams of data to back up the theory that the stricter rules will help bring down infections.
On Wednesday, the PM promised he would fulfil their wishes and give them information on why the Tiers system was working.
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