Ministers are mulling plans to add Tier 4 to regionalised coronavirus rules when England exits the nationwide lockdown on 2 December.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted England will return to a local lockdown approach when current measures automatically expire in three weeks.
However, reports that a fourth tier could be rolled out in virus hotspots has sparked concern that many regions will remain in lockdown beyond 2 December.
A source told the Telegraph: “We will return to a regionalised approach after the lockdown, and the government has not said explicitly at this point the tiers will be exactly the same”.
The PM’s official spokesman today said: “When the current national measures come to an end on 2 December we will be returning to a regional tiered approach.
“And we’re committed to setting out our proposals for what that system will look like the week before the current regulations lapse on 2 December, so MPs will have the time to consider them and to vote upon them.”
More than a fifth of the country was living under Tier 3 restrictions by the time the country entered lockdown last weekend, meaning a ban on all social mixing and the closure of pubs, bars and gyms.
The amended tier system will likely mean parts of the North, which faced the toughest restrictions before lockdown, will be plunged into further local shutdowns after 2 December.
Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty has previously alluded to potential Tier 4 restrictions, warning last month warned that even “base line” Tier 3 restrictions would not be enough to stop a spike in coronavirus cases.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s extension of the furlough scheme until March last week exacerbated fears that regional lockdowns could extend well beyond the Christmas benchmark.
One Whitehall source said: “It seems likely as things stand that an extra tier will be introduced, whether that is called ‘Tier Four’ or ‘Tier Three Plus’”.
“It would mean we could keep pubs and restaurants closed in the top tier, then areas would come down through the tiers as the infection rates come down,” they added.
“But nothing has been decided yet. These discussions are still at an early stage.”
It comes after dozens of Tory MPs today formed a new coalition urging the government to use responsible coronavirus projections, and to outline a clear strategy for exiting lockdown.
The Covid Recovery Group of 50 Conservative MPs will be headed up by former chief whip Mark Harper and ex-Brexit minister Steve Baker.
Writing in the Telegraph this morning, Harper said: “Last week I voted against a Conservative government for only the second time in my fifteen years in Parliament, which was not easy for a former chief whip.
“Lockdowns cost lives, whether in undiagnosed cancer treatments, deteriorating mental health, and missed A&E appointments — not to mention the impact it has on young people’s education, job prospects and our soaring debts.”
The Department for Health and Social Care did not respond to requests for comment.