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England is to enter a third national lockdown which is expected to last until at least mid-February.
In a televised address to the nation on Monday, January 4, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the news after a surge in cases following the discovery of a new variant of the deadly coronavirus last month.
The PM urged Brits to immediately stay at home – from tonight.
All primary schools, secondary schools and colleges will move to remote provision from Tuesday, January 5, except for children of key workers and vulnerable kids who can attend in person.
Early years – e.g. nurseries, alt provision and special schools – remain open.
The new measures come into place as the number of hospital admissions increased to a higher figure than at any point during the first wave.
"As I speak to you tonight, our hospitals are under more pressure from Covid than at any time since the start of the pandemic," the Prime Minister said.
The PM signed off the address by urging people to pull together.
He said: "The weeks ahead will be the hardest yet, but I really do believe that we are entering the last phase of the struggle because with every jab that goes into our arms we are tilting the odds against Covid and in favour of the British people.
"Thanks to the miracle of science, not only is the end in sight, but we know exactly how we will get there.
"But for now, I'm afraid you must once again stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives."
Earlier on Monday The Department of Health confirmed a nationwide upgrade of the UK Covid Alert Level from Level 4 to Level 5, as health services across the UK struggle under “immense pressure”.
The alert level system is different from the government's tiered lockdown. It is set by scientists and refers to the threat of the epidemic.
Level 5 is the highest Covid alert level – meaning "transmission is high or rising exponentially" and "there is a material risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed".
In a joint statement on Monday evening the chief medical officers (CMOs) for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and NHS England’s national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said that without further action there is a risk of the NHS “in several areas” being overwhelmed over the next 21 days.
The CMOs wrote in their statement: “Following advice from the Joint Biosecurity Centre and in the light of the most recent data, the four UK chief medical officers and NHS England medical director recommend that the UK alert level should move from Level 4 to Level 5.
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“Many parts of the health systems in the four nations are already under immense pressure. There are currently very high rates of community transmission, with substantial numbers of Covid patients in hospitals and in intensive care.
“Cases are rising almost everywhere, in much of the country driven by the new more transmissible variant. We are not confident that the NHS can handle a further sustained rise in cases and without further action there is a material risk of the NHS in several areas being overwhelmed over the next 21 days.
“Although the NHS is under immense pressure, significant changes have been made so people can still receive lifesaving treatment. It is absolutely critical that people still come forward for emergency care. If you require non-urgent medical attention, please contact your GP or call NHS 111.”
A No 10 spokesman had earlier said: "The spread of the new variant of Covid-19 has led to rapidly escalating case numbers across the country.
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"The Prime Minister is clear that further steps must now be taken to arrest this rise and to protect the NHS and save lives."
Professor John Edmunds, who works on the Government's coronavirus response as part of the scientific advisory group for emergencies (Sage), warned that "really major additional measures" are needed immediately, with school closures being the "biggest lever" available.
Earlier, Mr Johnson had said there was "no question" that further action was needed and there would be "tough" weeks ahead.
The move comes as Nicola Sturgeon announced Scotland will go into lockdown for the rest of January, with a legal requirement to stay at home and schools closed to most pupils until February.
You may only leave home for one of these specific reasons:
- Go to work if it’s impossible to work from home, e.g. construction or critical workers who can’t work from home
- To shop for necessities including food and medicine
- To exercise, which can be with up to one other person from outside your household or bubble. The exercise should ideally be limited to once per day and people should try to do this locally
- To provide care or help to a vulnerable person
- To attend medical appointments or seek medical care or fleeing the threat of harm or violence.
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- Boris Johnson
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