PM Boris Johnson announces third national lockdown amid surge in coronavirus cases
A new lockdown for England will be enforced from midnight, the UK Prime Minister has announced.
In a bid to curb the continued and increasing spread of COVID-19, everyone in the country must stay at home except for especially permitted reasons, according to a statement from Boris Johnson this evening.
In line with the latest updated restrictions, all schools and colleges will close for most pupils and students, switching to remote learning until the middle of February, as the country is plunged into its third national lockdown in less than a year with stricter and tougher restrictions being enforced tonight.
Speaking in a live televised broadcast, the PM urged members of the public to follow the rules as a matter of urgency amid surging coronavirus cases and patient numbers.
Delivering his eight-minute address from Downing Street, Johnson described the weeks ahead would be the “hardest yet” but people in the top four priority groups would receive a first vaccine dose by mid-February, as the nation was entering “the last phase of the struggle”.
Similar to the first UK lockdown in March 2020, people will not be able to leave their homes except for specific reasons, such as essential medical needs, food shopping, exercise and work for those who cannot do so from home.
Following a recent debate about school closures between education unions and government officials, it has also been confirmed all schools and colleges will close to most pupils from Tuesday (January 5) with remote learning until February half-term. The GMB trade union has welcomed the move.
This latest action comes as the UK recorded more than 50,000 new confirmed COVID cases for the seventh day in a row on Monday (January 4), while a further 58,784 cases and an additional 407 deaths within 28 days of a positive test result were also logged. The new virus variant, first identified in Kent and since spread across the UK and to other parts of the world, has been found to transmit with greater ease than previous versions.
With all new government guidelines and restrictions published in a 22-page document, the PM also revealed those with extreme clinical vulnerability will be contacted by letter and should now shield once again, that support and childcare bubbles will continue under the new measures, and people can meet one person from another household for outdoor exercise only.
The reinstated lockdown was declared after the UK’s chief medical officers called for the national COVID threat level be increased to its highest status – five, with a warning of “material risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed”, suggesting the NHS could be unable to handle a further sustained rise in cases in the coming month.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi MP said the government target is to successfully achieve 13.9m jabs by mid-February.
In response to the government statement, Birmingham City Council reiterated the need for people to remain at home and only leave the house to shop for basic necessities for themselves or a vulnerable person, go to work or provide voluntary or charitable services, exercise once a day with their household (or support bubble) or one other person, ensuring not to travel outside their local area.
The council is also encouraging people to meet with their own support bubble or childcare bubble where necessary, but only if they are legally permitted to form one, and to seek medical assistance or avoid injury, illness or risk of harm, including domestic abuse.
Scotland earlier issued a stay-at-home order and joined Wales in closing classrooms for most pupils while Northern Ireland’s Stormont Executive are also meeting to discuss possible new measures.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who has previously called for a third national lockdown in England, said he supported the latest measures, saying the PM’s measures were “necessary”, adding it’s “very important” for everyone to “pull together” and follow the ‘stay at home’ message.
Following the announcement, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham raised concerns about the economic repercussions of the lockdown, tweeting: “Millions will be worried sick tonight about how they’re going to manage this financially.
“Rishi Sunak needs to go back to his positive approach at the start of the pandemic & honour his “no one left behind” pledge. It would help rebuild the sense of national unity we will need.”
London Mayor echoed similar sentiments, but clarified “this is essential to save lives and protect our NHS.”
At the time of writing, there had been no official response to the PM’s statement from West Midlands Mayor Andy Street.
Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives. pic.twitter.com/PUN79POzAw
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) January 4, 2021
January 2021: What are the new lockdown rules?
- People cannot leave their homes except for specific reasons, similar to the first lockdown last March
- These include essential medical needs, food shopping, exercise and work for those who cannot do so from home. All non-essential retail and personal care must close
- All schools and colleges will close to most pupils from Tuesday with remote learning until February half-term, but nurseries will stay open
- End-of-year exams will not take place this summer as normal
- University students must not return to campuses but continue to learn online from their current residences until mid-February
- In-person teaching should only take place for a small number of courses, such as critical care sectors
- BTec examinations taking place over the next few days will still go ahead
- Playgrounds will remain open and so will places of worship
- Restaurants may continue to offer delivery for food, but takeaway alcohol will be banned
- Outdoor sports venues such as golf courses, tennis courts and outside gyms must close
- Elite sport such as Premier League football can continue but amateur team sports are not allowed
The latest lockdown begins at midnight on Tuesday 5 January 2021 until mid-February 2021. You can view the new government lockdown guidelines here.