London could be placed under a tier three lockdown within a fortnight unless infections fall significantly.
The capital saw a case rate of 151 per 100,000 people between October 17-23, up from 111 the week before.
Researchers at Imperial College London say the city’s R rate – measuring the speed at which Covid-19 reproduces – could be as high as 2.9, meaning each infected person passes the bug to almost three others.
Government sources told Politico it is a matter of ‘when rather than if’ when asked if the capital would be placed under the most severe coronavirus restrictions.
Visit our live blog for the latest updates Coronavirus news live
Meanwhile sources close to Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said it was ‘highly likely’ that the city would be moved to the third tier ‘in the coming weeks’.
This will mean bars and pubs will be forced to close, unless they offer ‘substantial meals’, while other businesses including gyms, casinos, betting shops and leisure centres may also be told to close.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick refused to rule out the possibility of putting London under tier three.
He told Sky News: ‘We haven’t taken those decisions. We are taking action in the places where the evidence very clearly shows the virus is strongest.
‘But if it’s required in other places then obviously we’ll follow the science and do the same.’
London is currently under tier two, meaning people are banned from mixing indoors with members of other households, unless they are part of a support bubble.
The nationwide 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants still applies as does the ‘rule of six’ for outdoor gatherings.
Nearly a fifth of England will soon be under the toughest coronavirus restrictions as the number of patients in hospital continues to rise.
Nottinghamshire entered tier three this morning, while West Yorkshire will move up to the highest alert level from Monday.
It will take the total number of people in the highest level of restrictions to just over 11 million – 19.6% of the population.
And with the Tees Valley and the West Midlands expecting to be moved up to tier three, millions more people could soon be under the strictest level of Covid-19 restrictions.
Nearly 60% of England’s population – around 32.6 million people – will be under stricter rules by Monday, with 16 areas including including Oxford, Luton, East Riding of Yorkshire, Kingston Upon Hull, Derbyshire Dales, Derby and Staffordshire due to move to tier two.
It comes after a grim report from the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) warning 85,000 more people could die with coronavirus and 356,000 could be admitted to hospital during the second wave.
Senior figures are warning the three-tier ‘traffic light’ system might not be enough to curb the spread of the bug.
One health official told the Telegraph that measures were more likely to make a difference if they were done on a national level, rather than making the rules even tougher in third tier regions.
They said a short ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown after Christmas could help bring cases back down if the Government decides to loosen restrictions to allow families to come together.
Boris Johnson is under increasing pressure to impose a nationwide lockdown before and after the holiday, to minimise the impact and prevent a ‘super spreader’ event.
One source said: ‘Releasing measures for two days is unlikely to cause a big upswing,’ a source said.’ But it won’t do nothing. Christmas brings people from all over the country to sit inside together, so its quite likely to be a spreading event.
‘But people want to see their loved ones and they want to make physical contact, and we have to recognise that.’
Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].
For more stories like this, check our news page.