Health secretary Matt Hancock has refused to rule out the possibility of a new fourth tier of restrictions.
It comes after reports that Whitehall is in discussion with local authorities about imposing a further layer of coronavirus restrictions – “tier 3 plus”, or tier 4.
According to the i newspaper, Whitehall sources expect to make the decision if the existing three-tier system has not made an impact by mid-November.
Tier 3 measures include the closure of pubs and bars that don’t serve food, gyms, soft play areas and casinos. A fourth tier could see the closure of restaurants and non-essential retail, the newspaper said.
On Monday, Hancock told BBC Breakfast the government would “rule nothing out” at the prospect of the new restrictions.
He said: “We’ve always said all along that we take nothing off the table.
“Having said that, we have seen the rise in the number of cases has slowed a bit.
“The problem is it’s still going up, and while it’s still going up we’ve got to act to get it under control.
“We rule nothing out but at the moment the three-tier system is what we’re working to and it’s effective in slowing the growth of this virus but it hasn’t brought this curve to a halt.”
Speaking to Sky News, Hancock said the idea of reducing isolation time for people who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 from 14 days to seven is “entirely led by the clinical science”.
He said: “It’s always under review. You might remember that a couple of months ago we increased the amount of time that people who have a positive test have to isolate from seven days to 10 days.
“That’s a clinical decision.”
Hancock said France has reduced the amount of time people have to isolate based on clinical advice, adding: “So it isn’t about the compliance issue. It’s about the overall clinical judgment of what time is required for isolation.
“Obviously I’d rather have isolation as short as is reasonably possible because of the impact it has on people’s lives, but it must be safe.”
He said the government will be “guided by the science as we have been in all decisions in this pandemic”.