Third national lockdown for England underway amid soaring Covid cases

5 January 2021, 11:48 | Updated: 5 January 2021, 15:25

By Maddie Goodfellow

England entered a tough national lockdown today as Covid-19 cases continue to rise across the country.

Boris Johnson told the nation to "stay at home" and to only leave the house for limited reasons such as to shop for essentials or travel to work if you cannot work from home.

Anyone who has previously shielded has been asked to do so once more.

Schools will be closed, with online teaching for all pupils except key worker children and vulnerable children.

Mr Johnson also said it isn't fair for all exams to go ahead this summer so "alternative arrangements" will be put in place.

The decision comes as a mutant strain of coronavirus continues to surge through the country, with England recording its highest ever daily case number on Monday at 51,813 and a further 376 deaths.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove has defended the timing of the announcement. Speaking to Nick Ferrari on LBC this morning he said: “Yesterday the chief medical officers made a judgement that we have to move towards level five, the highest level of warning, because the NHS was in danger of being overwhelmed.

“Reluctantly, and with a heavy heart, but on the basis of the evidence we felt we had to go further than the restrictions that had already been announced.”

Earlier on Monday, the UK Covid-19 Alert Level was moved from Level 4 to Level 5. This means the number of cases is rising and there is a risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed.

The new measures mean that from today, everyone in England must stay at home with few exceptions.

It is a return to a lockdown, with a ‘Stay at Home’ message in place and all hospitality and non-essential shops closed.

The new rules mean that people must not leave the house except to...

1. Work if it's impossible to work from home (for example critical and construction workers)

2. Shop for necessities including food and medicines

3. Exercise – this can include one other person outside of your household, support or childcare bubble. Ideally once a day and locally.

4. Provide care or help to a vulnerable person

5. Attend medical appointments, seek medical care or flee the threat of harm or domestic abuse

Mr Johnson also said the new variant – which is 50 to 70 per cent more transmissible – was spreading in a “frustrating and alarming” manner.

He said last night: "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 said.

The Prime Minister said that in England the number of Covid patients in hospitals has increased by nearly a third in the last week to almost 27,000 – some 40 per cent higher than the first peak in April.

On December 29 “more than 80,000 people tested positive for Covid across the UK”, the number of deaths is up by 20 per cent over the last week “and will sadly rise further”.

“With most of the country, or maybe under extreme measures, it’s clear that we need to do more together to bring this new variant under control while our vaccines are rolled out."

The Prime Minister also acknowledged that struggles this will cause, saying: “I know how tough this is, and I know how frustrated you are and I know you have had more than enough of government guidance about defeating this virus, but now, more than ever, we must pull together.”

In a tweet following the announcement, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he "supports" the measures.

"These measures are necessary and we support them," he said.

"The coming weeks are going to be difficult, but we must all pull together to get control of the virus and get the vaccine rolled out.

"Stay at home, protect our NHS, vaccinate Britain."

Parliament has also been recalled today to sit on Wednesday where they will vote on the measures.

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has agreed to the Government’s request for the House to meet on Wednesday but urged MPs not to physically attend Parliament unless absolutely necessary.

In a message to MPs, Sir Lindsay said: “I am satisfied that the public interest does require such a recall and I have agreed that the House shall meet on Wednesday 6 January 2021 at 11.30am.

“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.

"Members’ staff should also be working from home and I have asked the House authorities to limit House staff on the estate to a bare minimum.”

Prior to the announcement, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove held a four-nations call on coronavirus restrictions.

Earlier on Monday First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a new national lockdown in Scotland starting at midnight tonight.

Scots are now legally required to stay at home except for essential purposes. These include essential shopping, exercise, caring responsibilities and being part of an extended household.

Anyone able to work from home must do so and businesses are being asked to "look again at their operations" to facilitate this.

Anyone who is shielding should not go into work even if they cannot work from home and no more than two people from two separate households can meet outdoors.

In addition, Welsh lawmakers confirmed that schools will remain closed for any in-person teaching until 18th January.

Wales has been in a national lockdown since 20 December, which is the likely reason why children in Wales will start back earlier than those in England and Scotland.

Almost 80% of the public support another national lockdown, according to a new YouGov poll.

The survey of 1,592 adults in Britain found 79% backed a lockdown - up by 8% from a similar poll on December 22 - while 16% were against toughening restrictions further.

YouGov said those polled included people across all major political parties, regions and ages, with 51% saying they "strongly" supported a lockdown.