MPs in Greater Manchester and London have been invited to briefings with a government minister this morning – amid reports that both areas could be placed into a higher coronavirus tier.
Health minister Helen Whateley is going to hold a call with London MPs at 9.30am, followed by Greater Manchester MPs at 10.45am.
Local leaders including Andy Burnham will also be speaking with the government after the Joint Biosecurity Centre recommended that Manchester and Lancashire should be moved to Tier 3, the highest alert level.
This would mean households can no longer mix indoors and outdoors – with pubs and bars forced to close unless they can operate as restaurants.
Last night, government figures stressed that no final decisions have been taken, but Sky’s political editor Beth Rigby says government sources are clear that numbers in Greater Manchester and Lancashire are “bad” and some action is needed.
At present, the Liverpool City Region is the only area that is subject to Tier 3 restrictions.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock is also going to address the Commons later today.
Meanwhile, it has been reported that London mayor Sadiq Khan has briefed local health officials about moving the capital into the Tier 2 “high” category.
On Tuesday, Mr Khan told Sky News that further restrictions in London were “inevitable” in the coming days as hospital admissions and infection rates are “going in the wrong direction”.
In a letter to the prime minister, he also warned new measures could possibly be needed as early as this week.
“None of us want more restrictions in London but given the increase in infection rates and the lack of testing we have little choice,” he wrote.
The reported changes could result in millions of people facing tighter restrictions in their day-to-day lives.
Greater Manchester’s mayor, Andy Burnham, has expressed exasperation with the government’s approach over recent days – claiming that some decisions affecting the North West have been communicated to the media first.
“We are expecting a further meeting with the PM’s team in the morning,” he tweeted.
William Wragg, the Conservative MP for the Greater Manchester constituency of Hazel Grove, claimed he was yet to be invited to the discussion with Ms Whateley.
“Sadly, I’ve received no email… says it all really,” he wrote.
In other developments, Northern Ireland is set to enforce the toughest controls seen in the UK – with pubs and restaurants set to close for four weeks, and schools facing a two-week shutdown.
From 6pm on Friday, people from the UK’s coronavirus hotspots will also be banned from coming into Wales.
The Police Federation of England and Wales has described the new rule as “unenforceable”, while the UK government said it was “disappointed” by the move.
Mr Johnson remains desperate to avoid any form of national lockdown – despite demands from Labour for a temporary “circuit breaker” to break the train of transmission and stem the spread of the disease.