MATT Hancock will reveal which areas face tougher restrictions TODAY after 3pm.
The Health Secretary will make a statement to the House of Commons as fresh coronavirus cases have spiralled out of control.
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Millions of Brits face being plunged into Tier 4 as top scientists warned January would spell "catastrophe".
Mr Hancock is expected to address MPs at around 3pm, after Boris Johnson chaired a crunch meeting to review all Tiers last night.
Yesterday, there were more than 53,000 new infections – an all time high.
Brits have been warned they could face even tougher lockdown rules – being dubbed Tier 5.
Government scientists are reported to have told Boris Johnson tougher measures are needed to get a grip on the new Covid strain – which could be as much as 56 per cent more infectious.
It could mean the whole country is thrown back under national measures, or Tier 4 is beefed up, with all socialising with out households banned – even in outdoor public places.
Schools could even be kept closed for most pupils.
Professor Andrew Hayward, who sits on the Government's Nervtag group, warned the country was looking at a disaster as fresh infections continued to rocket out of control.
The Government is grappling with how to safely get schools open next week, with only primary school kids and Year 11 and 13 students set to go back next week.
Prof Hayward said the reopening of schools would see the need for "increased, strict restrictions" in other areas of society "to pay for that".
It comes as:
- The Oxford University/AstraZenca vaccine was approved by regulators today – with a million doses a week to be rolled out from next week
- And a change in strategy is expected to take place so people can get the vaccine sooner – with ministers to prioritise the first jab and give the second within 12 weeks
- More than 53,000 cases of the virus were reported yesterday
- A major incident was declared in Essex over Covid as hospitals struggle to cope with demand
- School pupils in some years are likely to be delayed to returning to the classroom thanks to the spike in cases
Prof Hayward, who is a professor of infectious diseases epidemiology at University College London, said widespread Tier 4 restrictions – or even higher – are likely to be needed as the country moves towards “near-lockdown”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think we are entering a very dangerous new phase of the pandemic and we’re going to need decisive, early, national action to prevent a catastrophe in January and February.
“A 50 per cent increase in transmissibility means that the previous levels of restrictions that worked before won’t work now, and so Tier 4 restrictions are likely to be necessary or even higher than that.
“I think we’re really looking at a situation where we’re moving into near-lockdown, but we’ve got to learn the lessons from the first lockdown.”
The fresh tier news comes after warnings whole families are being hospitalised as the new strain of coronavirus affects young and old Brits.
Martin Llewelyn, professor of Infectious Diseases and NHS Consultant, has revealed there was a "staggering" number of patients with coronavirus in the wards just days after Christmas.
More than 21,000 people are currently in hospital with the deadly bug with fears the new variant is more likely to affect young people.
The President of British Infection Association tweeted: "Back on the wards today. Staggering amount of Covid.
"Striking difference from last time – large family outbreaks with teenagers/young adults the focus. Multiple family members being admitted.
"Not looking forward to next two weeks. Please follow the rules this new years eve."
The PM met with Education Secretary Mr Williamson earlier this week, who wants to see kids back in classrooms in January.
But a split has emerged among Cabinet ministers, with some eager to follow the Government’s scientists and keep schools shut until until February being one option.
In a meeting hosted by No10, Mr Williamson argued they must stick to the plan of a staggered start to the new term.
Mr Gove said the current plan was for primary school pupils, GCSE and A-level students and kids of key workers to return to school next week, with other secondary school students returning the following week.
But he warned that this could be changed amid reviews, with longer periods of enforced online learning as a possibility.
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