Civil servants are working on new plans to shield people at risk from coronavirus as part of plans to avoid a second national lockdown if the spread of the virus increases again.
The effective return to shielding for elderly and others at an increased risk from Covid-19 is being looked at by the government as prime minister Boris Johnson tries to prevent coronavirus shutting down the economy again.
According to the Telegraph he has asked officials to prepare a suite of possible measures, including telling vulnerable people to remain at home while the rest of the population continued to move around freely.
The "enhanced" or "differential" shielding policy could see those at enhanced risk to be allocated specific times of the week for exclusive access to some services and shops.
Other potential measures also include imposing a city-wide lockdown on London if infection rates spike in the capital.
The government could increase quarantine measures for travellers arriving in the UK, as well as bringing in "harder" local lockdowns with even tighter restrictions than have been seen in Greater Manchester and other parts of the North.
In those areas people from different households are currently banned from meeting indoors, but this policy could soon be made nationwide if the figures show a continued rise in infections across the country.
It comes after Johnson announced that he was postponing the planned easing of lockdown measures due to take place this weekend.
The PM said he had decided to “squeeze the brake pedal” amid concerns of a second wave of coronavirus.
He has now asked a team of officials to draw up formal plans to deal with the situation, with a senior Whitehall source telling the newspaper: "We are hopeful that fast action, regional lockdowns and quarantines will stop the need for any more substantive action.
“However we prepare for all scenarios, and officials are currently drawing up an array of policy options to present to the prime minister.”
The original shielding plans saw more than two million people who faced the highest risk of being hospitalised by Covid-19 to stay inside their homes since the start of lockdown.
That is coming to an end this month, but under the new proposals an even greater number would be asked to keep indoors, after government research into the risk factors for the disease.
A government source said: "The shielding list was binary, you're either on it or you're not.
“Now we know more, we can be more sophisticated about it.”
Alain Tolhurst is the chief reporter at CSW's sister title PoliticsHome, where a version of this story first appeared.