The Government’s top scientists will warn the public on Monday that the country is at a “critical point” in tackling a second wave of the deadly coronavirus.
The chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser will tell people to steel themselves for a “very challenging” winter as coronavirus cases continue to soar.
Prof Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance will publish the latest data on the deadly disease in a bid to encourage the public to stick to the rules.
In the live address at 11am, the CMO will say: “The trend in the UK is heading in the wrong direction and we are at a critical point in the pandemic.
“We are looking at the data to see how to manage the spread of the virus ahead of a very challenging winter period.”
Boris Johnson will address the nation this week after his Health Secretary warned the country was at “tipping point” into a second wave of deadly coronavirus.
The Prime Minister is expected to announce that tougher lockdown restrictions will be imposed across England to prevent the disease spiralling out of control.
Downing Street sources confirmed that measures “on the table” include a nationwide ban on households mixing, a curfew on pubs and harsher penalties for those who flout the law.
Insiders suggested the restrictions could be introduced as soon as next week so that Government scientifics have the chance to see if the ‘Rule of Six’ has helped get new infections under control.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned that numbers could “shoot through the roof” as he refused to rule out a second national lockdown if the public failed to follow social distancing rules.
“This country faces a tipping point,” he said. “If everybody follows the rules then we can avoid further national lockdowns.
“But we of course have to be prepared to take action if that’s what’s necessary.”
He added: “I am very worried about this second wave. We have seen in other countries around Europe how it can absolutely shoot through the roof”.
Mr Hancock confirmed a second national lockdown remained on the table, but insisted: “We don’t want to do that”.
The Government is desperate to avoid another full lockdown amid fears over the damage it would do to jobs and the already battered economy.
He called on the Government to act “in the next few days” to tackle the rising tide of cases, instead of waiting too long as it did when the first lockdown was imposed.
The PM met his top scientific advisors at No 10 on Sunday to decide their next steps.
There were a further 3,899 cases of coronavirus in the UK today, while another 18 people died within 28 days of testing positive.
Hospital admissions for the deadly disease are doubling every eight days. London Mayor Sadiq Khan, whose officials met with the Department of Health today, warned the Government that the capital would need new coronavirus restrictions within days.
Mr Khan is also said to be preparing to urge people to work from home if possible, despite the Government’s push to get people back to their offices.
Insiders said London is no longer two weeks behind hotspots like the North East and Greater Manchester, but is “two or three days behind” instead.
The Mayor is said to be pushing for 10pm curfews on pubs and a ban on mixing households in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus.
At least 13.5 million people, roughly one in five of the UK population, are already facing local restrictions, with life across swathes of the North and Midlands already severely curtailed.
In Bolton, which continues to record the highest rate in England, 540 new cases were recorded in the seven days to September 17 – the equivalent of 187.8 per 100,000 people.
Rossendale in Lancashire has the second highest rate, up sharply from 60.2 to 159.5 over the same period.
The Mayor of Greater Manchester has called for the government to resolve a “north-south” Covid-19 testing divide.
Andy Burnham said on Sunday: “The PM must give a place for all of the English regions on a reconvened Cobra, alongside London, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“The North of England is experiencing the highest number of cases but also the greatest difficulty in accessing tests.
“This North-South testing divide can’t be right and is exactly the kind of issue that a reconvened Cobra needs to resolve. The North needs to be levelled up on testing without delay.”
But No 10 appears to have ruled out a meeting – also demanded by the first ministers of Wales and Scotland – claiming that there are daily meetings which deal with local flare-ups.
Government sources said there would be tougher enforcement of social distancing laws after announcing that people could face fines of up to £10,000 for refusing to self-isolate.
People on benefits in England will be eligible for a one-off support payment of £500 if they face a loss of earnings because they have to stay at home.
Mr Hancock said: “We will support people who do the right thing but will come down hard on people who do the wrong thing”.
He also said that people should tell on neighbours or friends who failed to self-isolate – contradicting Mr Johnson who said last week he had “never much been in favour of sneak culture”.
Former government adviser Prof Neil Ferguson said new measures were needed “sooner rather than later”.
The scientist, whose advice was crucial to the decision to go into lockdown in March, said: “If we leave it another two to four weeks, we will be back at [infection] levels we were seeing more like mid-March.
“That’s clearly going to cause deaths because people will be hospitalised.”
Yet Mr Johnson was said to be considering lifting the ‘Rule of Six’ over Christmas so families could get together.
Aides dismissed the reports, saying that it was “months away” and the path of the virus was not yet clear.
They also emphatically denied claims that Prof Whitty was on the brink of resigning over the Government’s plans.
Senior Tories are planning to try to stop ministers imposing new coronavirus restrictions without the say of Parliament.