Ministers are drawing up plans to enforce sweeping lockdown measures across the country including a ban on household mixing in London, as new coronavirus infections continue to rise.
Pubs, restaurants and bars may be forced to shutter for two weeks in both the North of England and in London, marking a return to so-called circuit breaker plans which were abandoned last week.
Members of different households may also be banned from meeting indoors indefinitely, while schools, shops and various workplaces are likely to be allowed to remain open.
It comes as the government is seeking to clamp down on social interactions following a spike in the R rate across the country.
On Tuesday, the UK reported 7,143 new Covid-19 cases, up from 4,044 new cases on Monday.
The UK’s coronavirus hospital death toll rose by 47 in the last 24 hours, marking the highest daily spike since July.
Tuesday’s figures showed 44 new deaths recorded in England, three in Wales, and no new deaths in Scotland or Northern Ireland, taking the official UK death toll to 42,001.
Just six of London’s 32 boroughs currently have infection rates below the threshold of 20 cases per 100,000 used by the government to introduce quarantine measures on other countries.
East London has been hardest hit by a second wave of the virus, with Redbridge reporting 62.9 cases per 100,000 residents over the past week, according to latest government data.
Barking and Dagenham currently has an infection rate of around 55.6 per 100,000, while Tower Hamlets’ stands at 45.8.
The Prime Minister is said to have been presented with fresh lockdown plans last week, but rejected them in favour of softer “return to working from home” rules and a 10pm curfew on hospitality venues over fears of a backlash.
A senior government source told the Times: “The nation and the party weren’t ready for us to go any further last week. There wasn’t a wide enough understanding of how substantial the second wave could be.
“Unlike the first lockdown, nobody has seen pictures of body bags in Spain or France on the TV yet, which had a very powerful effect… Tougher measures on social interaction will have to come though. They’re inevitable in some parts if you look at the numbers.”
It comes after the capital was on Friday added to the national coronavirus “watchlist”, with every single borough in London marked as an area of concern by Public Health England.
Government sources said the capital’s fate now hangs “in the balance”, after London mayor Sadiq Khan said the city is at a “tipping point”.
Khan added that London has seen a “sharp rise” in 111 calls, hospital admissions and patients in intensive care units.
Almost 200 people were admitted to hospital in London from Monday to Friday last week, up from 151 the previous week and 65 new hospital admissions in the first week of September.
A spokesman for Khan said: “The mayor is calling on the government to bring in more stringent restrictions to tackle the fast-growing spread of the virus. He is extremely concerned that many Londoners will get sick or die without further action. We know from the first wave that delay costs lives.
“There is a balance to be struck between restrictions on hospitality sector and restrictions on household mixing in homes and gardens, where it can be harder to maintain a safe distance.
“If the government do as the mayor is asking and bring in tighter restrictions on household mixing then it may be possible to review some restrictions on hospitality such as the 10pm curfew.”