Boris Johnson will give a TV address at 8pm on Monday having warned tough new coronavirus restrictions are set to be imposed in England, No.10 has confirmed.
Parliament will be recalled today to sit on Wednesday to allow MPs to debate any new restrictions.
The prime minister is under mounting pressure to impose a national lockdown on England to try and curb the surge in coronavirus infections.
A No.10 spokesperson said: “The prime minister is clear that further steps must now be taken to arrest this rise and to protect the NHS and save lives. He will set those out this evening.”
Earlier on Monday, Johnson said there were “tough, tough” weeks to come amid a surge in infections.
“If you look at the numbers there’s no question we will have to take tougher measures and we will be announcing those in due course,” he said.
Despite increasing pressure on hospitals around the UK, current admissions are unlikely to account for a coming surge caused by increased socialising over the holidays.
“I think the hospital data doesn’t yet reflect Christmas but will start to this week which is even scarier,” Dr Christina Pagel, director of the Clinical Operational Research Unit at UCL, told HuffPost UK.
The government has refused to rule out imposing a third national lockdown in England.
It comes after Nicola Sturgeon announced most of Scotland will be placed in lockdown from Tuesday for the whole of January.
Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, has demanded a national lockdown be declared within the next 24 hours.
Jeremy Hunt, the former health secretary who lost to Johnson in the 2019 Tory leadership contest, has also piled on pressure for the government to move quicker.
“Time to act: thread on why we need to close schools, borders, and ban all household mixing right away,” he said.
Senior Tory MP Neil O’Brien said procedures “need to toughen up at the border” in order to prevent cases being imported— a particular concern given the potential for new variants such as the one in South Africa.
He warned the pressures facing hospitals are “off-the-scale worse” than previous winter crises.
The latest data show a 41% rise in the number of confirmed coronavirus patients in hospital in England between Christmas Day and January 3, figures which have caused alarm in Whitehall and the health service.
The rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine – which is easier to distribute than the other approved jab from Pfizer/BioNTech – could provide a route out of further lockdowns, but it could be months before sufficient numbers have received their first shot.
Brian Pinker, 82, was the first person to receive the jab outside clinical trials.
Ministers have said the NHS has the capacity to deliver two million doses a week of the Oxford vaccine but supplies are limited.
While some 530,000 doses are to be available from Monday, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said tens of millions more are to be delivered in the coming weeks and months once batches have been quality checked.