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Prime Minister announces full lockdown until at least the middle of February with schools closed after coronavirus rates continue to rise

The country has entered its third national lockdown.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced this evening that tougher restrictions would come into force in England from midnight tonight, telling people to "again stay at home".

Mr Johnson confirmed that schools would close from tomorrow and that the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson would discuss with Ofqual what would happen with this summer's exams, which are likely to be cancelled.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Prime Minister Boris Johnson

The latest restrictions are similar to those that were in place for the first lockdown in March.

Mr Johnson said: "The government is instructing you once again to stay at home."

He urged all to stay home, work from home unless absolutely necessary and to avoid travel.

People may leave the house for exercise, for essential tasks like food shopping, for medical appointments including getting a Covid test or to escape domestic violence.

The clinically vulnerable must shield again and will soon receive a letter.

All primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, will move to remote learning from tomorrow, except for vulnerable children and the children of key workers. Education Secretary Gavin Willamson is working with Ofqual to put in place alternative arrangements for exams due to take place this summer. Nurseries will remain open.

Tighter Covid restrictions are to come into force. Picture: Chris Davey
Tighter Covid restrictions are to come into force. Picture: Chris Davey

Parliament is due to be recalled on Wednesday when the new measures will become legally enforceable.

Mr Johnson said the new variant had prompted the move, saying it was "frustrating and alarming" to see the speed at which it was spreading. It is between 50 and 70 per cent more transmissable, he said.

"Our hospitals are under more pressure from covid than at any other time since the start of the pandemic and in England alone the number of hospital patients has increased by 30 per cent."

He said the number of deaths was up by 20 per cent over the last week and would "sadly rise further".

"With most of the country already in extreme measures it's clear we need to do more together to bring this new variant under control while our vaccines are rolled out," said Mr Johnson.

The country's Covid-19 alert level has been moved up to five due to the risk of healthcare services becoming overwhelmed.

"There is one huge difference compared to last year," said Mr Johnson. "We're now rolling out the biggest vaccination programme in our history. So far we in the UK have vaccinated more people than in the rest of Europe combined.
"With the arrival today of the UK's own Oxford vaccine, the pace of the programme is acclerating."

Vaccine (43816929)
Vaccine (43816929)

He said the NHS expected to have offered the first vaccine dose to all residents and carers in care homes, frontline health and social care workers, all those over 70 and everyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable by the middle of February "if things go well and with the wind in our sails".

He said if this was a success, this would mean the Government could "eventually lift the restrictions".

"We should remain cautious about the timetable ahead," Mr Johnson warned.

He said the aim would be to "steadily move out of lockdown" and reopen schools after the February half-term.

"I want to say to everyone in the UK: I know how tough this is, I know how frustrated you are and I know you've had more than enough of Government guidance about defeating this virus but now more than ever we must pull together."

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