Boris Johnson says he had “no choice” but to implement another national lockdown in England as “the facts are changing” on coronavirus infections.
The prime minister is facing MPs in the Commons ahead of a vote on England’s third national COVID-19 lockdown later.
Follow live updates as PM gives COVID statement
The shutdown has already come into force, with the Commons recalled from its Christmas recess to debate and retrospectively vote on the coronavirus restrictions.
Labour is backing the lockdown, meaning there is no prospect of a government defeat.
However, a number of Tory MPs could rebel or abstain to show their unhappiness at the prospect of another prolonged shutdown.
The PM announced the move in a televised address to the nation on Monday, telling the public that a new variant of coronavirus first identified in the UK was spreading at a “frustrating and alarming” rate.
And he said hospitals were “under more pressure from COVID than at any time since the start of the pandemic” last year.
In a bid to offer people some hope for the future, Mr Johnson said vaccinating the almost 14 million people in the top four priority groups would allow the government to begin considering easing restrictions.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove told Sky News earlier this week that ministers “should” be able to start relaxing England’s lockdown in March.
The regulations enforcing the lockdown, which were published on Tuesday, allow it to be in place until the end of March.