Brits are facing another national lockdown as Prime Minister Boris Johnson considers placing the country under stricter measures, according to reports.
England could be back in lockdown by the middle of the month, Government sources suggested to The Telegprah.
The reported discussions prompt fears the country will be locked down until at least Easter.
The paper reports discussions regarding the return of shielding have already begun in Government, and a further announcement on school closures could come as soon as this week.
Mr Johnson refused to rule out personal restrictions last seen during the first lockdown in March last year, while appearing on the BBC's Andrew Marr show on Sunday.
He said: "It may be that we need to do things in the next few weeks that will be tougher in many parts of the country. I'm fully, fully reconciled to that. My bet is the people of this country are reconciled to that."
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, called for an immediate lockdown, saying Covid is 'clearly out of control', while scientific advisers to the Government added that tougher measures were needed.
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Primary schools in some parts of England are set to defy Boris Johnson's plans to open today, with many informing teachers and students to stay closed following the winter break.
The PM insisted schools are safe and said councils should abide by advice to reopen in most places other than areas identified as coronavirus hotspots.
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He remained confident "things would be better" by the spring and the rollout of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine, which begins on Monday.
He said it means "we can see how we're going to get out of this, and with great clarity".
In the meantime, he said: "What we are doing now is using the tiering system, which is a very tough system… and, alas, probably about to get tougher to keep things under control. But we will review it."
Whitehall sources told The Telegraph discussions are under way about the return of shielding, telling vulnerable people to stay inside, and whether shielding could be extended to people in specific age groups such as the over 70s.
MPs would have to approve a third lockdown, even after Sir Keir told the PM to bring in new Covid restrictions to England within the next 24 hours.
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