Boris Johnson last night warned that Britain was 'seeing a second wave coming in' as he contemplated six months of 'on-off' restrictions to tackle the upsurge in coronavirus cases.
The Prime Minister, who fears the country is six weeks behind Spain and France, said it was 'inevitable' that a second wave would reach the UK.
He is now looking at six months of 'on-off' nationwide restrictions amid concerns in Downing Street that the public is ignoring rules on social gatherings.
The new approach to get the country through winter would see it alternate periods of stricter measures with intervals of relaxation.
Fortnight-long 'circuit breakers' would see tough restrictions introduced temporarily across the whole country to suppress the virus, before they would be lifted for a time and then re-introduced if necessary.
Measures could include bans on social contact between households, shutting down hospitality and leisure venues such as bars and restaurants, or restricting their opening hours.
Boris Johnson last night warned that Britain was 'seeing a second wave coming in' as he contemplated six months of 'on-off' restrictions to tackle the upsurge in coronavirus cases
Student Emily Gittings, 19, has her temperature taken before heading into a mobile coronavirus testing unit for asymptomatic staff and students set up in a car park at the University of Portsmouth
A graphic shows where the latest restrictions are being enforced across Great Britain
Nicola Sturgeon and Sir Keir Starmer yesterday demanded the Prime Minister convene an emergency Cobra meeting this weekend to discuss the rise in cases.
The Scottish first minister said she had requested a meeting between Boris Johnson and the devolved administrations.
She also warned of further national restrictions, telling Scots ‘hard but necessary’ decisions may have to be taken in the next few days.
Miss Sturgeon said she hoped to avoid a second national lockdown, adding: ‘Ideally we will be able to have a joined-up approach across the UK.’ She added that she could not remember the last time she spoke to Mr Johnson. Labour leader Sir Keir echoed her plea. He said: ‘This is the time for swift, decisive national action.’
Miss Sturgeon claimed most of the recent discussions between the Government and the three devolved administrations have involved Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove rather than the Prime Minister.
The Government is also looking at the possibility of introducing 'targeted shielding' that would see people with serious medical conditions given tailored advice.
Unlike previously when more than two million people across England were given blanket instructions to stay at home for several months, individuals would be given more specific recommendations according to how vulnerable they were deemed to be.
There is concern in No 10 that people are flouting the 'rule of six' that came into force in England on Monday.
Mr Johnson said last night said he was considering whether the Government needed to 'go further' than the current national restrictions.
He said: 'We're looking very carefully at the spread of the pandemic as it evolves over the last few days and there's no question, as I've said for several weeks now, that we could expect (and) are now seeing a second wave coming in. We are seeing it in France, in Spain, across Europe – it has been absolutely, I'm afraid, inevitable we were going to see it in this country.' Spain recorded 239 deaths in a single day this week.
The Prime Minister insisted a second lockdown was the 'last thing anybody wants' but said the current measures would need to be kept 'under review'.
He added: 'On Monday, we brought in the measures that we did, the 'rule of six', to really try and restrict what people are doing and to bring in a new buffer. But the crucial thing is at the same time to observe the basic rules on social distancing – hands, face, space – that is what everybody has got to do if we want to continue to beat this thing.
'But as we look at this particular curve and what is happening now, clearly we are going to keep everything under review. I don't want to get into a second national lockdown at all – it is the last thing anybody wants.
A graphic shows the number of coronavirus infections recorded per day in the UK
'I don't want to go into bigger lockdown measures at all, we want to keep schools open. We want to keep the economy open as far as we possibly can, we want to keep businesses going. The only way we can do that is obviously if people follow the guidance.'
Asked about the possibility of a two-week October half-term in order to bring in a short lockdown, Mr Johnson said: 'We want to keep the schools open, that is going to happen. We want to try and keep all parts of the economy open as far as we possibly can.'
Earlier in the day, Matt Hancock suggested measures would need to be in place into next year.
The Health Secretary said: 'The strategy is to keep the virus down as much as is possible whilst protecting education and the economy. And doing everything we possibly can for the cavalry that's on the horizon – the vaccine and mass testing, and the treatments that, frankly, this country has done more than any other around the world to develop.'
National or local lockdown, shielding, curfew or do nothing? As Covid infections double each week, debate is raging… what IS best for Britain, asks BEN SPENCER
It's the debate dividing Britain. Covid infections are doubling each week and experts believe the death toll will soon start to climb. Should ministers act quickly to stop a second wave or hold off to prevent more damage to the economy? With no easy options, these are some of the possibilities they are considering.
Simply carry on through to Spring with the current level of restrictions.sonos sonos One (Gen 2) - Voice Controlled Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa