He said: “Greater Manchester have lower rates than Liverpool and London when they were originally placed at Tier 2.

“One can only conclude that it was the changing context in London and the South East that changed the national context that led to everyone in the north of England being kept in chains.”

There was also disappointment in Northwest Leicestershire, with Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen predicting that his constituency would be “separate” from Leicester, given the stark differences in infection rates between different regions.

Mr Bridgen said the announcement was “disappointing news for the voters who have worked hard to suppress the virus”.

The government said some areas have been separated from nearby hotspots, with Waverley Township in Surrey being cited as one of the toughest restrictions set aside despite the rest of the county having entered Level 3.

Starting at 12.01am on Saturday, when the new levels come into effect, less than 2% of the population will be in Level 1, with more than 30% in Level 2, and only a narrow range of Level 2 areas separating the North and Level 3 blocks Southern.

Conversely, health managers in Herefordshire (which moved to Level 1 on Saturday) said they were “disappointed” by the decision to relax the measures.

Acting Public Health Director Rebecca Howell-Jones said: “Our rates in Herefordshire have fallen from their peak but we are still around 50 per 100,000, and we are starting to see that this decline has stabilized over the past two days.”

She indicated that the decrease in numbers was due to the closure of England in November rather than the gradual restrictions in the province.

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She added: “I think the relaxation of the rules now, right before Christmas and more relaxation which will inevitably lead to more injuries, appears to be too early.

Watch Home Secretary Priti Patel (below) talk about her Christmas plans: