Schools in Southport and the wider region may need to close, on top of tier 4 restrictions, to bring the new UK coronavirus variant under control, a rapid analysis says.
The researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine say whether schools can stay open is the key question for the New Year.
The work, which is still preliminary, calculates the variant is spreading 56% faster than other forms of the virus.
Keeping children in school has been a major hot political topic over the last 9 months.
The pandemic has disrupted the education of millions of children and affected their mental health.
The variant is thought to have emerged in Kent in September and now accounts for around two-thirds of cases in London, the south-east and the east of England.