The Government is considering "firebreak" restrictions – with school half-term holidays to double if hospitalisations continue to rise.
A Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) member claims an "extended peak" of infections will come – but a full lockdown is not likely.
Contingency plans could mean an extension of the half-term, doubling to two weeks from late October into early November, the i reports.
It is believed closing schools during the summer holidays helped avoid a sharp rise in cases since the lifting of lockdown restrictions in July.
A SAGE source said: "It would be sensible to have contingency plans, and if a lockdown is required, to time it so that it has minimal economic and societal impact.
"We are going to be at a peak, albeit an extended peak, quite soon, so it's not really the same situation as last year, when failure to reduce prevalence would have resulted in collapse of NHS and people dying in car parks.
"Hospitals might be overflowing before deaths reach the same level. Acting early will prevent this level."
Another source added: “While deaths are unlikely to hit the levels as seen last autumn because the vaccines are doing their job, it is the admissions that will push the NHS to the brink of collapse if they do not fall soon."
The Department of Health's daily update on Monday showed there were 41,192 new cases, compared to just 26,476 on Bank Holiday Monday.
Another 45 Covid deaths were also registered, marking a 6 per cent fall compared to last week.
It comes as the UK's chief medical officers prepare to deliver a decision on vaccinating children this week.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid says the Government must be ready to "move quickly" in one of the strongest hints yet that children will be inoculated.
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