England’s Covid-19 lockdown has become law, meaning people must stay at home for all but essential reasons and to exercise, with MPs set to return to Westminster to retrospectively vote on the regulation.
The tough new measures came into force at midnight, just hours after the number of coronavirus cases reported hit a new high of 60,916 – the first time the daily total has passed 60,000.
The Commons has been recalled from its Christmas recess for the second time, to debate and retrospectively vote on the measures announced by the prime minister on Monday.
Boris Johnson will update MPs on the new controls – which include the closure of schools to most pupils and a return to the stay at home order – before a vote due in the evening.
The measures are expected to pass with ease, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer saying his party will support the motion.
It comes as the World Health Organization said it would not recommend withholding the second dose of the vaccine for up to 12 weeks, instead suggesting the interval should be between three and four weeks.
Meanwhile, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will outline a package of support for young people, after students in England were told this year’s GCSE and A-level exams would be scrapped.
The regulations enforcing a national lockdown in England came into effect at 00.01 on Wednesday, as new figures suggested one in 50 people had coronavirus last week.
Data from the Office for National Statistics suggested 1.1 million people in private households in England had Covid-19 between December 27 and January 2
England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said people must take the ‘stay at home’ rules seriously as he warned that the country faced a “really serious emergency”.
Speaking alongside Prof Whitty at a Downing Street coronavirus update, the prime minister said that more than 1.3 million people have been vaccinated against the virus across the UK so far, including 23% of all the over 80s in England.
Prof Whitty said the vaccine timetable was “realistic but not easy”, and that the NHS would have to use “multiple channels” to get it out.
But questions have been raised over the roll-out, with a pharmacy chief questioning why the NHS is “scrabbling around” for vaccinators when his industry was offering to help.