Richard Spurr 4am - 7am
MPs to vote on England's new Covid-19 measures after lockdown becomes law
6 January 2021, 06:25
England's third national lockdown become law overnight and MPs will vote on the regulations retrospectively later.
Restrictions include a stay at home order and the closure of schools to most pupils to tackle rapidly rising coronavirus infection rates.
It's estimated 1 in 50 people had Covid-19 last week - rising to 1 in 30 in London. 1.3 million people have been vaccinated against the virus, Boris Johnson said yesterday.
Chris Hopson from NHS Providers says many hospitals are close to capacity. He said: "It's not just in London and the south east and the east of England, it's also in the south west, the north west, Yorkshire - and every single trust executive that we speak to is saying they are under huge and significant pressure."
MPs will return to Westminster to vote on regulations enforcing England's national lockdown later today as the stringent restrictions entered into force overnight amid spiralling coronavirus cases.
The Commons has been recalled from its Christmas recess for the second time, to debate and retrospectively vote on the measures announced by the Prime Minister on Monday.
Mr Johnson will update MPs on the new controls at 11.30am, which include the closure of schools to most pupils and a return to the stay at home order - before a vote due in the evening.
The measures are expected to pass with ease, with Labour set to support the motion.
It comes as the World Health Organisation said it would not recommend witholding the second dose of the vaccine for up to 12 weeks, insteading suggesting the interval should be between three and four weeks.
Meanwhile, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will outline a package of support for young people, after students in England were told this year's GCSE and A-level exams would be scrapped.
The regulations enforcing a national lockdown in England came into effect at 00.01 on Wednesday, as new figures suggested one in 50 people had coronavirus last week.
Data from the Office for National Statistics suggested 1.1 million people in private households in England had Covid-19 between December 27 and January 2.
England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said people must take the 'stay at home' rules seriously as he warned that the country faced a "really serious emergency".
His comments came as the number of daily confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK topped 60,000 for the first time, while a further 830 people died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Tuesday.
But in a sign of progress, the Prime Minister said that more than 1.3 million people have been vaccinated against the virus across the UK so far, including 23% of all the over 80s in England.
Prof Whitty, speaking alongside Mr Johnson at a Downing Street press conference on Tuesday evening, said the vaccine timetable was "realistic but not easy", and that the NHS would have to use "multiple channels" to get it out.
But questions have been raised over the roll-out, with a pharmacy chief questioning why the NHS is "scrabbling around" for vaccinators when his industry was offering to help.
Simon Dukes, chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Negotiating Services Committee, told The Telegraph: "Rather than scrabbling around trying to find retired GPs and nurses and anyone who has possibly dated skills, you've got an army of thousands of pharmacists up and down the country who administer the flu jab every winter.
"We've been telling the NHS that we're ready, willing and desperate to help. But we've been met by a de facto silence."
Meanwhile The Times reported that two million doses of the Pfizer vaccines held back for boosters would be distributed in the next fortnight.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer urged the Government to use the lockdown to create a "round-the-clock" vaccination scheme in order to end "this nightmare".
In a televised response to Mr Johnson's statement, Sir Keir also confirmed he would back the new restrictions in the Commons vote on Wednesday.