Boris Johnson will review the UK’s coronavirus lockdown with his cabinet later, after suggesting some rules could be eased from Monday.
By law the government must review the restrictions every three weeks, and Thursday marks the latest deadline.
The prime minister will address the nation at the weekend to outline plans for the next stage of the lockdown.
It is understood the “stay at home” message could be scrapped, with ministers keen to restart the economy.
Mr Johnson will chair a meeting of his top team later to discuss the lockdown restrictions, which were introduced more than six weeks ago on 23 March.
However, major announcements on any changes are not expected until Sunday, when the prime minister will make a statement.
While the lockdown is largely expected to stay in place, Mr Johnson has suggested some measures could start being eased on Monday.
“We want, if we possibly can, to get going with some of these measures on Monday,” he told Prime Ministers’ Questions.
“It would be a good thing if the people had an idea of what’s coming the following day, that’s why I think Sunday, the weekend, is the best time to do it.”
But Mr Johnson also said the government had to be sure any changes to the restrictions were backed by data, and “that data is coming in continuously over the next few days”.
No 10 said that “it is not going to be a case of flicking a switch” to lift all measures at once, and instead “people will have to prepare for a different type of normal”.
Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has already indicated she is unlikely to announce immediate or significant changes.
She has unveiled a paper on the options being considered – including relaxing rules on daily exercise or allowing people to meet with a small social “bubble”.
Lockdown ‘to continue’
BBC Newsnight’s political editor, Nicholas Watt, said although final decisions were yet to be taken, it was likely the current lockdown would continue “for another three weeks or so”.
He suggested there might be “a big focus on the outside” – for example allowing more exercise outside or more work on construction sites.
The correspondent added that Mr Johnson might also say that face coverings – not medical face masks – could be used by the public in some circumstances.
BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said the government’s “stay at home” message – which it has pushed since the lockdown began on 23 March – is “on the way out”.
Public Health England also said it was “reviewing all communications materials in anticipation of moving to the next phase of the government campaign”.
It comes as the UK became the first country in Europe to record more than 30,000 people dying with coronavirus.
Latest government figures showed 30,076 people have now died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community after testing positive, up by 649 from the day before.
The UK now has the second-highest number of recorded coronavirus deaths in the world, behind the United States.
Speaking on ITV’s Peston programme, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said making international comparisons was “not constructive or helpful until we have had the time and space to comb through the data”.
The UK’s latest figures also showed deaths in care homes continued to rise, even as hospital deaths had fallen. Mr Johnson said he “bitterly regrets” the crisis in care homes and the government was “working very hard” to tackle it.
Meanwhile, the UK missed its testing target of 100,000 a day four days in a row. The government initially reached the target at the end of April, but Wednesday’s figures showed the lowest number of daily tests in a week.
Opposition MPs including Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said the “consistent downward trend” of testing was “really not good enough”.
“It doesn’t inspire confidence to start easing lockdown,” she said on Twitter.
Mr Johnson has now announced a new target, of 200,000 tests a day by the end of May.
Downing Street said the new target, unlike the previous goal, was related only to capacity – rather than the actual number carried out everyday.
In other developments:
- Thousands of private renters who have lost their jobs could be at risk of homelessness, according to local councils across England
- Concerns have been raised about the wellbeing of babies born in lockdown, as parents struggle without the usual support networks
- US President Donald Trump says the coronavirus pandemic is the “worst attack” the country has ever suffered, hitting the US even harder than the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in World War Two, or the 9/11 attacks
- Dairy farmers in England can apply for up to £10,000 under a scheme to support the industry
- A new artwork by Banksy reflecting on the work of NHS staff has appeared at Southampton General Hospital.