A large number of overs 50s could be given orders to stay at home as part of Boris Johnson's 'nuclear plans' to avoid another national lockdown.
In a more 'segmented approach' to dealing with future lockdowns, people aged between 50 and 70 would be given personalised risk ratings - taking into accounts factors like their age and conditions - and asked to shield in the event of an outbreak.
The plans could prove controversial as the factors under which the elderly could be asked to self-isolate might be more heavily influenced by age than clinical vulnerabilities.
The advice for shielding was only lifted on Saturday for those in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and remains in place until August 16 for those shielding in Wales.
It comes after Mr Johnson was forced to announce a slow down of the lockdown easing on Friday, with planned relaxations for the leisure and Beauty sectors delayed after a rise in Covid-19 cases was recorded, with prevalence in the community thought to be rising for the first time since May.
In other developments yesterday:Britain suffers 771 more Covid-19 cases and 74 deaths amid warnings the infection rate could be at 'tipping point’; Eden in Cumbria, Sandwell in the Midlands, Northampton, Peterborough, Rotherham and Wakefield were yesterday revealed as six places which are on the government's coronavirus 'watch-list’; Passengers arriving at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 were left furious aftr they were forced to queue for hours with no social distancing; Holland's top scientists said there's no solid evidence coverings work and warn they could even damage the fight against Covid-19; Russia is preparing for a mass coronavirus vaccination campaign in October after finishing clinical trials - with teachers and doctors first in line; Arsenal fans ignored Covid-19 social distancing rules to celebrate outside the Emirates Stadium after the Gunners beat Chelsea in the FA Cup final.
A large number of overs 50s could be given orders to stay at home as part of Boris Johnson's 'nuclear plans' to avoid another national lockdown
'At the moment, shielding is binary, you're either on this list or off it,' a source told the Sunday Times.
'But we know there isn't a simple cut-off at age 70. People would get a personalised risk assessment. The risk rises after 50, quite gently to start with, and then accelerates after age 70.'
The Prime Minister held a 'war game' session with Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Wednesday to run through possible options for averting another nationwide lockdown that could stall any potential economic recovery, according to the newspaper.
It is believed Mr Johnson last week compared the prospect of a full national lockdown to a 'nuclear deterrent' to be as a last resort, but aides now say he is wants smaller 'tactical' nuclear weapons with which to fight covid-19.
Along with the head of the Covid-19 taskforce, Simon Case, Mr Sunak and other senior figures, the group held an hour-long discussion on three outbreak scenarios; one in northwestern England, one in London and finally a general increase across the country.
In a more 'segmented approach' to dealing with future lockdowns, people aged between 50 and 70 would be given personalised risk ratings - taking into accounts factors like their age and conditions - and asked to shield in the event of an outbreak
A significant proposal in the national model was reimposing the shielding programme, based on their age or particular risk factors that have been identified since March.
Other ideas mooted should the R-rate escalate in the capital include restricting travel beyond the M25 and putting a stop to staying at other people's houses - similar to policies implemented in local lockdowns imposed in Leicester and parts of the north-west of England in recent days.
And in a move that would burst the public's figurative 'bubbles', ministers could ban mixing of households indoors (including overnight stays), as has happened in the nine local authorities under a partial lockdown in north west England.
The move could have been inspired by test and trace data seen by Health Secretary Matt Hancock just before the meeting which showed that the top two ways the virus was transmitted were by an infected person visiting the subject's house, and by that person visiting an infected friend.
Coronavirus cases in England are now at the highest levels since May and government scientists are 'no longer confident' the crucial R rate is below the dreaded level of one.
Government statisticians yesterday admitted there is 'now enough evidence' to prove Covid-19 infections are on the up, calculating that 4,200 people are now catching the virus each day in England alone.
The estimate by the Office for National Statistics, which tracks the size of the outbreak by swabbing thousands of people, has doubled since the end of June and is 68 per cent up on the 2,500 figure given a fortnight ago.
One in 1,500 people currently have the coronavirus - 0.07 per cent of the population. But experts believe the rate is twice as high in London and still rising. The figure does not include care homes and hospitals.
Number 10's scientific advisers also upped the R rate in the UK, saying they now believe it stands between 0.8 and 0.9. It had been as low as 0.7 since May.
SAGE also revealed the growth rate - the average number of people each Covid-19 patient infects - may have jumped to above one in the South West, home to the stay-cation hotspots of Devon, Cornwall and Dorset. And they said it was likely to be equally high in the North West. Matt Hancock last night announced tough new lockdown measures in Greater Manchester and parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire.
Going to work was only third on the list and going out shopping lower still.
But Downing Street sources distanced themselves from the detail in the reports, calling them 'speculative'.
On top of the alleged lockdown avoidance preparations, experts