PM Boris Johnson says he is “hoping to avoid” another national lockdown in England but he admits Covid cases have increased “very much” in recent weeks.
It comes after Northern Ireland announced a new six-week lockdown from 26 December, similar to the “sustained” shutdown in March.
Wales had already announced a lockdown from 28 December which will be reviewed every three weeks and has no end date.
Health bosses have warned that the NHS is already under significant pressure.
The president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Katherine Henderson, said England and Scotland needed to do “whatever it takes” to get a grip of the virus, even if that meant “full lockdown”.
In Scotland, the government has warned that tougher restrictions – including a potential lockdown – after the festive period cannot be ruled out.
Meanwhile, head teachers in England say they have been left “broken” by the government’s announcement that the return to secondary school in January will be staggered to allow schools to set up a Covid testing scheme.
They say the move came too late for them to make the necessary preparations but Mr Gibb, the schools minister, has defended the plan, saying the government would provide support.