England will follow Scotland and go back into full national lockdown, Boris Johnson has confirmed.
Schools will remain closed with the public told to stay at home until at least mid-February.
The UK Prime Minister made the televised announcement amid an explosion in cases and hospitalizations in the country.
Case numbers have rocketed following the identification of a new faster-spreading variant of the virus in the country in December.
England will go back into full national coronavirus lockdown with schools closed and the public required to stay at home until at least mid-February, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday evening.
Johnson used a televised statement to announce that the entire country will be placed into full lockdown, with household mixing banned indoors and only essential shops remaining open.
Schools will be closed to all but the vulnerable children and the children of essential workers from Tuesday, just one day after many primary schools re-opened following the Christmas break.
Students will not be expected to return until at least after the February half term, Downing Street indicated.
Under the new measures, members of the public will be ordered to stay at home apart from a limited number of reasons, including caring for the vulnerable, exercise, essential work and buying food and medicine.
Amateur team sports will also be banned, although daily exercise will still be allowed with one other person outside your household.
The prime minister had previously resisted imposing another full national lockdown and had insisted as late as Sunday that schools were “safe” to re-open.
However, his statement on Monday followed the announcement of a Scottish lockdown by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon six hours earlier.
The exponential growth in infections and hospitalizations has come amid the identification of a new faster-spreading variant of the virus last month.
Hospitals in some parts of the country are now more than half-filled with Covid patients, with some hospitals running out of oxygen due to a surge in demand for respirators.
“Our hospitals are under more pressure from Covid than at any time before,” Johnson said, adding that there had been a 30% increase in hospitalizations in the past week alone, Johnson said.
Johnson has been under growing pressure to impose a full lockdown.
Opposition Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer on Sunday called for an immediate national lockdown saying the situation in England was now “clearly out of control.”
Johnson’s announcement is the latest in a series of U-turns on tackling the coronavirus made by his government in recent weeks.
The prime minister had planned to allow widespread household mixing over the Christmas period but reversed the decision in some parts of the country with just days to go before the holiday.
The Education Secretary Gavin Williamson also just weeks ago threatened to take local authorities to court for closing schools early for Christmas because of the surge in infections.
However, just days before their scheduled return on Monday, Williamson announced that secondary school openings would be delayed and primary schools would not re-open in most of London and parts of the South East.
He U-turned again just days later following questions about why primaries in some parts of London had been excluded from the plan.
Johnson’s announcement today came after teachers across the country were advised by the National Education Union not to attend schools due to the “serious and imminent danger” to their health caused by the virus.
Teaching unions believe that newly released papers by the UK government’s scientific advisory committee last week warning that schools would need to close in order to bring the virus under control, mean any attempt to force schools to open would have been a breach of UK work safety regulations.