Coronavirus restrictions are to be further tightened in parts of England early next week with the closure of bars and restaurants a possibility, the BBC has been told.
The changes will be introduced as part of a new three tier system for local lockdowns – which will grade areas according to the number of infections.
Ministers are still discussing how restrictive the top tier should be.
It comes as significant new measures are introduced in Scotland.
From Friday, all pubs and restaurants across central Scotland, including Glasgow and Edinburgh, are to be closed and in the rest of Scotland hospitality venues must close at 6pm and alcohol can only be served outdoors.
Meanwhile, the number of UK cases rose by 14,162 on Wednesday, with a further 70 deaths announced.
No final decision has been made on the extent of the potential closures in England, but schools are not expected to close.
There are already tighter restrictions in place in parts of the north-east and north-west of England, Birmingham and Leicester, where the rate of infection has been rising.
The Treasury is looking at providing financial support to the hospitality industry in the worst hit areas.
BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg says this support could also be distributed across the country if there were widespread closures.
It’s a complicated equation. The Department of Health is worried about the spread of the disease, as well as other patients losing out on other treatments because of the focus on Covid.
No 11 is fearful about the impact on the economy, which has already had a profound shock.
And it’s No 10’s job to worry about all of it, then reach a conclusion.
But Boris Johnson also knows that his own MPs and the opposition parties are more and more sceptical as each day passes about what the government proposes.
It’s clear that shutting pubs and restaurants is a possibility – the “circuit breaker” that we have talked about on here lots of times.
But there are many questions still to be settled.
The changes would come as areas across the country are seeing their level of positive Covid cases rise.
A spike in Nottingham saw it become the area with the fourth-highest infection rate in England, with 496.8 per 100,000 of population.
Local authorities across the county of Nottinghamshire have asked residents to avoid mixing with other households, but official restrictions have yet to be put in place.
In Scotland, licensed premises across the central belt, including Glasgow and Edinburgh, will have to close from Friday evening until 25 October.
Pubs and restaurants will be able to open in other parts of Scotland – but can only serve alcohol outdoors.
The government confirmed last month it was looking at introducing a new three-tier system for local lockdowns, as a way of simplifying the rules.
It is now understood a system of “local Covid alert levels” will be introduced early next week, possibly on Monday.
A memo seen by the BBC shows plans for additional money for local authorities placed into tiers two or three.
Local authorities would get £1 per head of population if placed into tier two and £2 per head for tier three.
Millions of people across the UK are already affected by extra local restrictions.
In several parts of north-east England, it is illegal to mix with another household in any indoor setting. People are also advised against all but essential travel.
In some areas in Wales, nobody is able to enter or leave without a “reasonable excuse”.
In other developments:
- People arriving in the UK from abroad may soon be able to end their 14-day self-isolation early, with plans for a testing system being considered by a new taskforce
- NHS England has announced that people with “long Covid” symptoms will be offered specialist help at clinics
- National 5 exams are to be cancelled in Scotland in 2021 and replaced with teacher assessments and coursework