A government minister has said local lockdowns "would be an option" in response to the spread of the Indian coronavirus variant.
Environment secretary George Eustice told Sky News on Tuesday: “We cannot rule anything out at this stage.
"Our preferred outcome is that we really double down on vaccination rates, then we won't have to have any local lockdowns."
His comments followed a report in The Times which claimed the government is considering a return to last year's Tier 4 restrictions in COVID-19 hotspots.
This would see people being advised to remain at home and the closure of non-essential shops, the newspaper said.
Businesses in local lockdown areas could apply for grants of up to £18,000 under the plans.
On Monday, health secretary Matt Hancock said more than 2,300 cases of the Indian strain had been detected in the UK, almost doubling in the space of four days.
A fifth of those cases have been in Bolton and Blackburn with Darwen, where it is now the dominant variant of coronavirus.
Hancock said that of the 19 hospital cases in Bolton, the majority had not had the vaccine, even though they were eligible.
The Times reported that another option being looked at by the government is a delay to its next phase of easing England’s lockdown on 21 June, when all legal limits on social contact are set to be removed and nightclubs can reopen.
Prime minister Boris Johnson said last Friday the Indian variant could jeopardise the 21 June unlocking plans, a day after refusing to rule out local lockdowns.
On the 21 June roadmap, Eustice said: "We want it to go ahead, but we cannot rule anything out. We want each step to be an irreversible one."
Watch: Boris Johnson not ruling out local lockdown against Indian variant