New social distancing regulations could be rolled out next week amid concerns that the current lockdown may not be enough to bring the coronavirus outbreak under control.
Asked whether restrictions could be beefed-up, Home Secretary Priti Patel only said there would be no new measures “today or tomorrow”, fuelling speculations that they would come after the weekend.
Ministers are reportedly considering mandatory mask-wearing outside and a ban on exercising with anyone outside a person’s own household.
Requiring people to say three metres rather than two from others at all times for social distancing is also thought to be one of the policies under consideration.
1,564 people were recorded to have died within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test on Wednesday, the highest figure since the pandemic began.
But there was some hope that the current restrictions might be turning the tide, as the number of new cases continued to fall compared to previous days. The numbers of deaths tends to lag the number of cases.
But the prime minister warned that there was a “very substantial” risk of intensive care capacity in some hospitals being “overtopped” by the current wave.
Asked about tougher restrictions on Thursday morning, Ms Patel told ITV’s This Morning: “We are not thinking about bringing in new measures today or tomorrow.”
But she warned against “speculation and rumours”, adding: “This isn’t about new rules coming in, we are going to stick with enforcing the current measures.”
In Scotland, the government has toughened its lockdown restrictions to curtail click and collect services to only those deemed essential
Customers will be barred from entering takeaway restaurants, meaning meals will have to be handed over at the door or through a hatch.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has previously said the current measures in England are “not strong enough” and accused Boris Johnson of being “slow to act”.
Mr Johnson himself has said he would not rule out imposing tougher rules if required.