The UK government is considering taking further England-wide measures including a short period of restrictions across the country to try to slow a second surge of coronavirus cases.
BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg has been told that a few weeks of national rules – or a “circuit break” – could be announced in the next week.
Schools and workplaces would be kept open during those weeks.
But no final decisions have yet been reached on the next course of action.
Our political editor said that at a meeting on Wednesday night, the government’s chief scientific adviser and medical officer presented predictions of another serious outbreak of the disease.
They forecast that there would be a significant number of deaths by the end of October if there were no further interventions.
The virus is now understood to be doubling every seven to eight days, with more than 3,300 new cases reported on Thursday.
It comes as nearly two million people in north-east England are the latest to face more lockdown rules, which came into force on Friday. The restrictions will ban people from meeting other households, and bars and pubs will have to shut at 22:00 BST.
Options for ministers
Under the so called “circuit break”, restrictions could be reintroduced in some public spaces nationwide for a period of a few weeks, but schools and workplaces would be kept open.
One of the ideas suggested by the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) is that some parts of the hospitality sector could be asked to close.
No 10 is also considering the possibility of limiting the opening hours of pubs and restaurants across the country, as has already happened in some local areas.
However Prime Minister Boris Johnson is understood to be deeply reluctant to order another national lockdown, where everyone would be asked to stay at home, and businesses to close.
This week he described the potential impact of a second national lockdown on the economy as “disastrous”.
On Thursday morning, Chancellor Rishi Sunak is understood to have presented warnings of the damage to the economy.
And ministers are also concerned about the impact of more restrictions on daily life on those who need treatment for non-Covid related illnesses.
However, no final decisions have yet been reached on the next course of action.
It is not yet clear what impact this week’s new rule banning social gatherings of more than six people will have on the rate of increase, and No 10 is continuing to monitor the data and take scientific advice.
But it seems increasingly likely that within the next week, the prime minister will tighten the national rules again, our correspondent added.