Pubs and restaurants could face temporary closure in northern England as part of new restrictions to limit the spread of coronavirus.
Government ministers are weighing up new measures, according to ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston, and could come as early as Monday, as infection rates soar in cities such as Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle.
The move would be a hammer blow to the hospitality industry which is already struggling with the 10pm curfew.
Infection rates in Liverpool and Manchester have risen to 552 and 542 people per 100,000 people respectively in recent days. In Newcastle, the infection rate is 480 per 100,000 people.
For context, the UK imposes quarantine restrictions on travellers returning from foreign countries where the infection rate is more than 20 people per 100,000 people.
Downing Street and the Department of Health and Social Care both declined to comment on the reports.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is said to be finalising a new financial support package for the sector amid fears of further job losses in the sector.
Robert Peston explains new restrictions which could come into force in northern England
The latest moves come after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a further tightening of restrictions in Scotland from 6pm on Friday.
Under the new rules, indoor hospitality venues will only be allowed to operate between 6am and 6pm daily, selling food and non-alcoholic drinks only, while outdoor bars will be allowed to serve alcohol until 10pm.
In the five regions with the highest number of cases – including Glasgow and Edinburgh – licensed premises will have to shut for a 16-day period, although they can offer takeaway services.
Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Ms Sturgeon warned that without the “short, sharp” package of measures, the disease could be “out of control” by the end of the month.
In England, Nottingham looks set to be the latest area to face new restrictions following a surge in infections.
The prospect of new measures comes amid growing unrest over the existing controls – including among Conservative MPs.
Tory rebels are threatening to try to overturn the 10pm curfew in an expected Commons vote next week, amid claims that it is proving counterproductive in health terms while further damaging the already weakened economy.
At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Sir Keir Starmer challenged Boris Johnson to produce the science behind the curfew, raising the prospect of a Government defeat if Labour joins the rebels in the division lobbies.