PUBS may remain closed for another four months with the gradual easing of restrictions taking several months.

Boris Johnson said the mass vaccination programme could see restrictions eased by mid-February but legislation enables the lockdown to last until March 31.

Now reports suggest that pubs could be closed until the first bank holiday in May.

A source told The Sunday Times: "The May Day bank holiday is more likely the moment you see pubs reopening."

The source did not detail whether pubs would be open for pints or if, as before, they would be required to serve a "substantial" meal in order to re-open.

It comes after takeaway alcoholic beverages were banned last week as part of lockdown measures introduced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The government is once again considering tightening restrictions as infections and hospital admissions soar across the UK.

READ MORE:Government considers tougher restrictions on shopping, exercise and face masks

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty warned: “Earlier this week, the UK’s four chief medical officers and the NHS medical director recommended raising the national alert level to the maximum of level 5 for the first time.

“This means that, without further action, there is a material risk of our healthcare services being overwhelmed within 21 days.”

The stark warning comes as the number of patients with Covid-19 in hospital reached a record high in England, while the official coronavirus death toll for the UK passed 80,000 on Saturday and lab-confirmed cases hit more than three million.

Professor Chris Whitty said the vaccine rollout offered hope that lockdown restrictions could be lifted in the coming months, but described the current UK death rate as “appalling”.

During a BBC phone-in on the current high case rates, he said: “I don’t think we’re yet at the peak, I’m afraid.

“I think we will be at the peak if everybody can double down and absolutely minimise their contacts.

“The point of the lockdown is to bring that forward, but it only works if everyone really thinks about every individual interaction they have and try and minimise them.”

Prof Whitty said the new variant of coronavirus was causing a “significant problem”, telling BBC Breakfast: “We will get through together, but at this point in time we’re at the worst point in the epidemic for the UK.”

New measures could include tougher supermarket rules, support bubbles being banned, face masks being made compulsory in all busy outdoor areas and exercise with one person outside of your household being banned.