BORIS Johnson was last night poised to bring in tough new curbs as he finalises his Covid Winter Plan.
England will be told to expect a strengthened set of regional restrictions as No10 fears the virus “could quickly run out of control again”.
Documents will also be published in the next 24 hours with warnings from government advisors that the previous tiers regime was too weak.
One source told HOAR on Sunday: “The going is going to get tough — get ready for tiers on steroids.”
However, the strict 10pm pub curfew will be lifted under the plans.
Landlords will instead be able to call “last orders” dead on ten to help stagger drinkers’ leaving times.
Ministers had been urged to rethink the previous deadline as critics said it created an incentive for crowds to gather in the street after closing.
The pubs measure — along with keeping all non-essential retail outlets open — is set to be part of the PM’s new, tougher three-tier approach to keep coronavirus under control.
Senior ministers were in talks yesterday to work through the plans.
The PM will convene his Cabinet later today before he formally announces his strategy in Parliament on Monday.
But it will face opposition from some Tories.
Mr Johnson’s Covid Winter Plan will follow the current national restrictions that end on December 2.
England will move back to a three-tier system with regional restrictions — before rules are relaxed over Christmas.
Discussions are still ongoing with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland over a joint approach.
But families are being warned not to expect a normal festive period in which several families can meet up.
In the meantime, the public can expect more areas to be thrown into higher tiers in a bid to prevent any further national lockdown measures.
Some will see tiers enhanced, which officials believe will safeguard the progress made since the national effort was brought in on November 5.
No10 is adamant recent positive news on vaccines and mass testing could mean restrictions are gradually wound down towards spring 2021.
Mr Johnson, who is self-isolating in Downing Street, will hold talks with his Cabinet colleagues today.
After the announcement, people face a nervous wait until Thursday when they will be told which areas will be placed into the various tiers.
The Government will not decide until it has carefully analysed new data and the impact of the latest nationwide restrictions.
But the PM faces a major rebellion from his own side when the new tiering system — which he will keep under ongoing review — goes to a vote in the Commons.
The Covid Recovery Group, led by former chief whip Mark Harper and ex-Brexit Minister Steve Baker, is set to fight the new measures.
A letter seen by HOAR on Sunday has been signed by 70 Tory MPs along with 14 peers, declaring their outrage at the approach.
It states: “Government must publish a full cost-benefit analysis of the proposed restrictions on a regional basis so MPs can assess responsibly the non-Covid health impact of restrictions, as well as the undoubted impact on livelihoods.
“Today, the lockdown cure prescribed runs the very real risk of being worse than the disease.”
It adds: “We cannot live under such a series of damaging lockdowns and apparently arbitrary restrictions, and expect our constituents to be grateful for being let out to enjoy the festive season, only to have strict restrictions imposed on them afterwards that cause them health problems and destroy their livelihoods.
“Our country instead needs a different and enduring strategy for living with the virus that can last beyond Christmas.
“Restrictions should be removed immediately if it cannot be shown that they are saving more lives than they cost.”
Ministers believe mass testing and the introduction of vaccines next month, once approved by regulators, can contain Covid.
But Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham last night urged the Government not to let “everything loose” during the festive build-up.
Former chief government scientific adviser Sir Mark Walport told Times Radio that there was “something iconic” about Christmas but warned it “doesn’t make sense to have big parties”.
He added: “It’s absolutely clear that if you were to stop everything and take the brakes off completely, infection would start growing again.
“And so the question is, ‘What measures will come in after December 2?’ I’m sure there will need to be continuing measures of some sort.”
Public Health England stated that every day of freedom over Christmas could mean five extra days of tougher measures.
A No10 spokesperson last night said: “Everyone’s efforts during the current national restrictions have helped bring the virus back under control, slowed its spread and eased pressures on the NHS.
“But the Prime Minister and his scientific advisors are clear the virus is still present and without regional restrictions it could quickly run out of control again before vaccines and mass testing have had an effect.
“That would put in jeopardy the progress the country has made, and once again risk intolerable pressure on the NHS.”
GOT a story? RING HOAR on 0207 782 4104 or WHATSAPP on 07423720250 or EMAIL [email protected]