British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has imposed a third national lockdown on England.
In a televised address to the nation on Monday, the prime minister said a lockdown “tough enough” to contain the new coronavirus variant is needed.
He said: “Our hospitals are under more pressure from COVID than at any time since the start of the pandemic.
“It’s clear that we need to do more together to bring this new variant under control while our vaccines are rolled out.”
Echoing words he used when imposed the first national lockdown on 23 March last year, Johnson said: “The government is once again instructing you to stay at home.”
Under the lockdown, people are only allowed to leave their homes for a limited number of reasons, including shopping for essentials, going to work if they cannot work from home, exercising, seeking medical advice and providing care.
All schools, except nurseries, must close under the rules. Johnson announced this just nine hours after insisting “schools are safe” as he defended the reopening of primary schools yesterday.
Some exams will be cancelled as a result of the closures, with “alternative arrangements” being organised, Johnson said. Pupils entitled to receive free school meals will continue to receive them.
The PM’s lockdown announcement comes after the UK’s chief medical officers warned: “Cases are rising almost everywhere… without further action there is a material risk of the NHS in several areas being overwhelmed over the next 21 days.”
More dire coronavirus figures had been released yesterday, with a record 57,784 lab-confirmed infections recorded in the UK.
The latest figures also show a 41% rise in the number of confirmed COVID-19 patients in hospital in England between 25 December and 3 January.
Meanwhile, the UK’s COVID alert has been level to five – the highest possible – meaning “transmission is high or rising exponentially” and “there is a material risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed”. Johnson’s fresh lockdown came hours after Nicola Sturgeon also imposed national restrictions in Scotland.