The prime minister and other ministers received advice that a tier 4 may be required to cut case numbers.
Mr Johnson has outlined plans to replace lockdown, which is due to end next week.
Although the current three tiers have been beefed up, there is no new tier 4.
The government’s scientific advisers had warned that a tier 4 may be required in areas where tier 3 restrictions were unable able to shrink the epidemic.
The move was particularly important in the run up to Christmas, experts warned.
“Given that the impact of tiers will vary depending on the characteristics of different areas, a “tier 4” needs to be considered for those parts of the country where tier 3 is not able to shrink the epidemic. This is particularly important in the run up to the winter festive period if relaxation of measures is under consideration. Keeping incidence flat or decreasing between now and then is crucial.”
The experts added: “It is likely that some localities may need a tier 4 to prevent the epidemic from growing. A tier 4 that guarantees a reduction in prevalence would be required in most places, if the prevalence is to be reduced.”
The documents also finds that the R rate, which shows how the disease spreads, appeared to have fallen below 1 in both Wales and Northern Ireland, according to both case and hospital admissions data, after they introduced so-called “fire breaks”.
The Sage scientific advisory panel also questioned the value of tier 1, concluding that “tier 2 is the minimum intervention required to maintain any degree of control on transmission”.
There are significant changes under the new system.
In tier 2, alcohol may only be served as part of a substantial meal.
In tier 3, meanwhile, pubs and restaurants will only be able to offer takeaway and delivery services.
However, across England the 10pm curfew will be relaxed, with last orders now taken at 10pm and premises ordered to close by 11pm.
Gyms will also be able to open across the country, no matter what the tier.