Boris Johnson has announced a new national lockdown for England – with people instructed to “stay at home” as they did during March’s first lockdown.
The prime minister revealed the action in an eight-minute TV address on Monday night, after being told that COVID-19 cases are rising rapidly in every part of the country due to the new coronavirus variant.
The public are being asked to follow the new rules, which replace the tiers system, from this evening.
It is expected the new lockdown in England – the third time a national shutdown has been introduced – will last until the middle of February.
People across the whole country must now stay at home apart from five exceptions:
- for work, if people cannot work from home, such as those in the construction sector or key workers
- to shop for necessities such as food or medicines
- to exercise once per day at a local location. This can include with one other person from outside someone’s household or support/childcare bubble
- to provide care or help to vulnerable people
- to attend medical appointments or medical care, or to flee the threat of harm or violence.
All primary schools, secondary schools and colleges will move to online learning from tomorrow.
However, nurseries can remain open while childcare and support bubbles will stay in place.
Those who are judged to be clinically vulnerable are being urged to stay at home as much as possible and not go to work even if they can’t work from home.
They should only go outside for exercise or to attend health appointments.
Mr Johnson said the new coronavirus variant was spreading at a “frustrating and alarming” speed.
“As I speak to you tonight, our hospitals are under more pressure from COVID than at any time since the start of the pandemic,” he added.
The prime minister’s announcement came after the UK’s COVID alert level was raised from Level 4 to Level 5, the highest possible, for the first time.
In a stark warning, the UK’s chief medical officers said there was a “material risk of the NHS in several areas being overwhelmed over the next 21 days” without further action.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had earlier announced a nationwide lockdown would be introduced in Scotland from midnight tonight.
And the Welsh government announced that all schools and colleges will move to online learning until 18 January.
The UK recorded 58,784 new coronavirus cases on Monday – the highest daily total since the start of the pandemic.
It is the seventh day in a row that there have been more than 50,000 daily cases, while government figures also showed there have been 407 more deaths in the past 24 hours.
The House of Commons will be recalled from its current recess to sit on Wednesday, so MPs can hear a statement from Mr Johnson and to vote on the new lockdown restrictions.
However Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Commons’ Speaker, urged MPs to stay away from Westminster “unless absolutely necessary” and to take part virtually.
New polling published by YouGov on Monday suggested 79% of Britons are supportive of another lockdown for the UK, compared to 16% who are against a fresh nationwide shutdown.