Swindon council’s coronavirus chief says he’s worried about Christmas as he fears no one will follow the rules.

It came as the town’s covid case rate climbed to 68.9 new cases per 100,000 people in the past week – significantly higher than the figures during Swindon’s “second wave” of the virus in August. A further 42 people tested positive in the 24 hours to 9am on Friday, it was confirmed last night.

However, the town’s rate was still lower than the south west average of 88.8 new cases per 100,000 and well below the England average of 177.2 per 100,000.

As health officials battle to control an outbreak among 16 to 19-year-olds at Wilkes Academy and positive test results at Swindon Town Football Club, Swindon Borough Council’s director of public health Steve Maddern played down fears the that the town was heading for Tier 2 and further restrictions.

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Steve Maddern, director of public health at Swindon Borough Council

He said he was “not planning” for the town to be bumped into the higher category, where different households are banned from meeting indoors.

But he warned that the “jury was out” about whether the town would be placed in Tier 2.

Mr Maddern told reporters yesterday: “I can’t say when [we might go into Tier 2] but we’re heading towards Christmas and I do worry about Christmas because I just really don’t feel anyone’s going to follow the rules.”

He urged people against complacency, pointing to the outbreak at Wilkes Academy as an example of how quickly the virus can spread.

He said: “I think we’re at the foothills of a very challenging winter and I probably imagine that we’re all going to be swept up into further tiers at some point or another. When that happens is really down to how the government supports local levels to keep their rates low, but also the work local levels do as well.”

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Swindon Town Football Club's County Ground 

Millions more people will be waking up to tougher coronavirus restrictions this morning.

Greater Manchester was moved into the highest alert level, Tier 3, yesterday morning, and Wales introduced its two-week “firebreak” lockdown at 6pm last night.

Coventry, Stoke and Slough entered Tier 2 at midnight, while talks between Westminster and civic leaders in Nottingham over possible Tier 3 restrictions continued yesterday.

Under Tier 3 measures in Greater Manchester, pubs and bars will be closed, unless they are serving substantial meals, for a 28-day period, along with casinos, bingo halls and bookies.