A new set of tougher national restrictions are to be imposed across the whole of England following the recent rise in coronavirus case numbers, Boris Johnson has confirmed.
The Prime Minister outlined the measures in a televised address from Downing Street on Monday evening (January 4), calling the spread of the new variant “frustrating and alarming”.
Under the new rules, people should not leave their homes for any reason except for essential purposes (such as shopping, medical needs, or exercising with one other person).
People should work from home unless they cannot do so.
The clinically vulnerable should shield again.
Primary and secondary schools will close immediately and move to online learning for all pupils except children of key workers and the most vulnerable.
Higher Education provision will remain online until mid February for all except future critical worker courses.
Johnson had warned of stricter rules just hours prior to his evening speech; telling press there was “no question” of tougher measures during his visit to a hospital administering the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
Whilst Johnson vowed the government would “do everything we can to keep the virus under control”, he also admitted there would be “tough, tough” weeks ahead in the UK’s fight against COVID-19.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon previously announced a nationwide lockdown in Scotland would come into force from midnight tonight, with a legal requirement to “stay at home”.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer on Sunday had demanded a national lockdown in England within 24 hours.
Mr Starmer responded to the announcement urging the need to “get the virus under control, protect the NHS and create the space for the vaccine to be rolled out as quickly as humanly possible”.
The new restrictions come as it was confirmed the UK recorded 58,784 new coronavirus (COVID-19) cases today – 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.
Government figures also showed there have been 407 more deaths in the past 24 hours.
The UK’s coronavirus alert level is also being raised from 4 to 5 for the first time since the system was set out in May of last year.
Level 5 or “red” means there is a “material risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed”, compared to Level 4 when transmission of the virus is “high or rising exponentially”.
The COVID-19 alert level refers to the threat of the epidemic, and is separate from the tiering system in England.
The House of Commons will sit from 11.30am on Wednesday in order to hear a statement from Mr Johnson and to debate public health regulations, with Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle adding: “As per my advice on the previous recall, I would strongly urge you NOT to physically come to Westminster to participate in any business unless absolutely necessary due to the current severe public health situation”.
For the latest information, guidance and support during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the UK, please do refer to official sources at gov.uk/coronavirus.