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PTI, London: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is considering a month-long nationwide lockdown amid the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country with an announcement expected as early as Monday, according to reports quoting government sources.

Johnson met his most senior Cabinet colleagues on Friday to discuss the possible toughening of restrictions in light of worsening coronavirus infection rate and hospital cases.

Everything except essential shops and education settings could be closed under the new measures, ‘The Times‘ newspaper reports, with the hope that measures can be lifted in the lead up to Christmas in December.

But no final decisions are believed to have been made and tougher regional measures under the current three-tier localised lockdown measures are also being considered.

UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove were all understood to be present at the discussion.

10 Downing Street is yet to issue a response to the reports that Johnson could hold a news conference on Monday to announce the new measures or that further restrictions are imminent.

Documents seen by the BBC suggest the UK is on course for a much higher death toll than during the first wave unless further restrictions are introduced. Deaths could reach more than 4,000 a day, one of the models suggests.

This figure is based on no policies being brought in to slow the spread of the disease, but most of the models peak at about 2,000 a day.

At the height of the pandemic earlier in the year, deaths in the UK reached more than 1,000 a day.

Documents from the government's Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M-O) revealed this week that England has breached its "reasonable worst-case" scenario for COVID-19 infections and hospital admissions for the winter months.

The scientists warned that the number of daily coronavirus deaths in England is in line with that scenario, but "is almost certain to exceed this within the next two weeks".

Infection rates are currently soaring across much of Europe, prompting new forms of lockdown across Germany, France and Belgium.

The Opposition Labour Party accused the UK government of “dithering” over the issue of what has previously been described as a short “circuit-breaker” complete lockdown.

“We could have saved more of the economy and reduced the impact of [lockdown] with a shorter, earlier circuit-breaker that coincided with half term,” said Labour’s shadow business minister Lucy Powell.

Scientific advisers at the top of government believe it is now too late for a two-week national circuit-breaker to have enough of an effect and a longer national lockdown is needed to drive the reproduction number, or R value, of the virus below one.

The UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) infection survey found cases "continued to rise steeply" in the week ending October 23, with an estimated 568,100 people in households becoming infected.

It comes as 24,405 new positive cases were confirmed on Friday and a further 274 virus-related deaths reported.

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