Amid reports that the rising levels of coronavirus infections across the UK may not be successfully brought under control by current restrictions, government ministers are thought to be considering further ways to reduce the spread of the virus.
While the third national lockdown in England was supposed to result in more people staying at home than in previous lockdowns, there are concerns that compliance has fallen.
Scientists have also raised concerns that, due to the increased transmissibility of the new strain, higher levels of compliance with the current restrictions would still not be enough to reduce the spread of the virus.
What extra measures are being considered?
There are a number of measures which have now been introduced, or are thought to be currently under consideration among ministers.
Police across England will now be quicker to issue £200 fines to people breaking lockdown restrictions. New police guidance, published on 6 January, says the goal for police should be to “encourage voluntary compliance”, but that enforcement can be applied “without repeated attempts to encourage people to comply with the law”.
This move comes following a recent high profile incident, during which Derbyshire police officers are said to have “surrounded” and then fined two women who were walking together, after one had driven five miles to take exercise.
The rules in shops could also be tightened, with the Government considering a move to make it illegal for people not to wear a mask or comply with social distancing in supermarkets.
Face coverings could become mandatory in some outdoor settings, such as supermarket queues, and businesses could be asked to tighten up their rules around office workers wearing masks while at work.
Speaking to the BBC, Health Secretary Matt Hancock refused to rule out the implementation of further restrictions, including the closure of nurseries, support bubbles being scrapped, the introduction of curfews and a limit of one hour being placed on outdoor exercise.
He said: “I don’t want to speculate, because the most important message is not whether the Government will further strengthen the rules. The most important thing is that people stay at home and follow the rules that we’ve got.”