A “traffic light” system to trigger local coronavirus lockdowns will be launched, with alerts sent to mobile phones.
A planned three-tiered regime will split the country into different areas based on local infection rates, deciding how tough restrictions should be.
The system will work alongside the new NHS Test and Trace app, which will include users scanning a QR code to enter and exit pubs, restaurants and bars, it was said.
It comes amid mounting fears London could be next for a local lockdown if social distancing measures announced this week fail to curb the Covid-19 spread in the capital.
Kevin Fenton, director of Public Health England in London, warned Mayor Sadiq Khan and the leaders of all 32 London boroughs there was a “rising tide of coronavirus ” in the city, during a private briefing this week.
Meanwhile, students could be asked to stay at university over Christmas, amid Covid-19 clusters in university halls.
At Glasgow University, 124 students have tested positive and more than 600 are self-isolating across residences.
In Dundee, 500 Abertay University students were asked to self-isolate in student accommodation where three people have tested positive.
All students in Scotland have been banned from visiting pubs while officials wrestle with the outbreaks.
Asked whether students would be encouraged to stay at university over the festive period, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Times Radio: “We don’t rule out the suggestion you just made but I don’t want to have to say that.
It is some time off.
“I very much hope that we won’t have to say that, but as I say I don’t rule it out.
“The important thing is in the short-term, students once they’ve gone to university should stay at university so as not to spread the disease.”
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “What is important in the event there is a specific outbreak on a campus is that steps are taken to ensure that the virus is not spread more widely.”
Downing Street confirmed Boris Johnson received a coronavirus briefing from controversial Swedish epidemiologist Anders Tegnell over the weekend.
The Scandinavian scientist was behind the policy not to impose a strict lockdown in March when most other countries were effectively shutting up shop.
While death rates soared in Sweden, infection rates during the second wave are below many other countries – potentially meaning it has achieved a level of herd immunity.
Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: “The PM has canvassed a wide variety of scientific opinion over the course of the weekend and it was part of that discussion.”