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The Government is reportedly mulling stepping up coronavirus restrictions in the New Year in a bid to contain rising infection rates.
Vast swathes of the country are now living under Tier 3 measures, with 38 million people set to be affected in the south and east of England from Saturday, December 19.
Northern Ireland has already announced a six-week lockdown beginning on December 26, and Wales will face similar restrictions from December 28.
It is claimed a tougher approach could also be adopted in England.
A Whitehall source told the Times: "There is a case for going further than Tier 3 and it is getting stronger.
"[This could mean] closure of non-essential retail, stay-at-home orders.
"That would have to be actively considered in conversation with the local authority."
Last month, experts warned that Tier 4 restrictions may be required in badly affected areas.
Part of a statement from the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, Operational sub-group (SPI-M-O) read: "There is a great deal of uncertainty about the effect of tiers, particularly Tier 3.
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"Test and trace, including mass testing, is most effective when prevalence is low.
"Even the most effective test and trace system will have little impact when caseloads are high.
"Given that the impact of tiers will vary depending on the characteristics of different areas, a 'Tier 4' needs to be considered for those parts of the country where Tier 3 is not able to shrink the epidemic."
Downing Street sources previously claimed a third lockdown was not currently being discussed – but that anything that could slow the rate of infection in the future was not being ruled out, The Sun reported.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman earlier said: "We've been clear of the rationale behind the tiered regional approach and that's what we've set out for the time.
"That is designed to reduce the rate of transmission and reduce the R rate in areas of high prevalence.
"As we've said throughout we will obviously keep the latest data and the latest trends under review."
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