Health bosses have recommended placing parts of Yorkshire under Tier 3.
Reports say the Government’s Joint Biosecurity Centre is looking to introduce tougher restrictions in the North West and North East of England as well as parts of Yorkshire and the Midlands.
Greater Manchester and Lancashire are looking set to be the first to be affected.
According to earlier reports, Sheffield, Leeds and Kirklees are areas at risk and can only avoid Tier 3 if infection rates decrease.
Sheffield currently has the highest infection rate in Yorkshire with 458.2 new cases per 100,000 people in the week to October 10.
Manchester’s in comparison is 477.5.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has been resisting pressure to follow the Liverpool City Region into the Tier 3 restrictions – which would see bars, gyms and betting shops forced to close – despite soaring infection rates.
However following a briefing with the deputy chief medical officer for England Dr Jenny Harries on Wednesday, he said he expected to have a further meeting with the Prime Minister’s team on Thursday.
Lucy Powell, the Labour MP for Manchester Central said it had “all the hallmarks of a decision having been made”.
Mr Burnham reacted angrily to the reports, tweeting: “At no point during tonight’s briefing was this news communicated to us. Media told first once again. Our position has not changed.”
In contrast, London mayor Sadiq Khan has said he would back tighter restrictions in the capital – which is currently under the lowest Tier 1 controls – but called for a package of financial support for the city.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, he said that with the infection rate approaching approaching 100 cases per 100,000 head of population, new measures would be needed “very soon” – possibly as early as this week.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock will update MPs on the latest measures in a Commons statement later on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland is braced for the toughest controls in the UK so far with pubs and restaurants set to close for four weeks from Friday and schools facing a two week shutdown.
And the UK government described a decision by the Welsh government to ban travel to the country from other parts of the UK with high levels of coronavirus infection as “disappointing”.
Mr Johnson remains desperate to avoid any form of national lockdown – despite demands from Labour for a temporary “circuit-breaker” to break the train of transmission and stem the spread of the disease.
In the Commons on Wednesday, he urged Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to use his influence with Labour authorities in the North to agree to “stringent measures” to get the rates down.
But in an online press conference, Mr Burnham said that if Greater Manchester was placed into Tier 3 it would be “by imposition, not consent”.
He warned that he could take legal actions to ensure residents were protected from the economic fallout of tougher restrictions.