The UK government has announced a new national lockdown for England from tonight (4 January).
Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that the country would be placed under stricter measures due to a continued rise in the number of coronavirus cases over recent weeks - with more than 80,000 people in the UK testing positive for the deadly disease on 29 December, a new record.
He once again ordered the country to stay at home, and not to leave other than for a number of permitted reasons, such as for work, shopping for essential items, and medical issues.
Under the rules, people can fulfill volunteering obligations; exercise once a day alone, with people from their household, or one person from another household; visit other people in their support bubble; and carry out compassionate visits, such as to those who are giving birth or in a hospice.
Attending places of worship is also allowed.
All pubs and restaurants must also close, except to provide food and non-alcoholic drinks for takeaway. Alcohol is banned for takeaway and click-and-collect, but will still be available for delivery.
Mr Johnson also announced that schools were to close until after the February half term, except for vulnerable pupils or the children of key workers.
He said that while the government had been working to keep schools open, they were 'vectors for transmission' and were causing the virus to spread between households.
As a result of the closure, Mr Johnson confirmed it would not be 'fair' for all exams to go ahead this summer.
Those who are found to be outside without a 'reasonable excuse' will be given a Fixed Penalty Notice of £200 for the first offence, doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400.
These new rules are to be followed immediately, and will come into law on Wednesday morning (6 January).
Mr Johnson said: "As I speak to you tonight, our hospitals are under more pressure from Covid than at any time since the start of the pandemic.
"In England alone, the number of Covid patients in hospitals has increased by nearly a third in the last week to almost 27,000, and that number is 40 percent higher than the first peak in April.
"With most of the country already under extreme measures, it is clear that we need to do more together to bring this new variant under control while our vaccines are rolled out.
"In England, we must therefore go into a national lockdown which is tough enough to contain this variant.
"That means the government is once again instructing you to stay at home."
It comes after Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced earlier today (4 January) that from midnight tonight the country would go into full lockdown.
More information about the new lockdown rules can be found here.
Featured Image Credit: PA