Boris Johnson has announced that England will face a nationwide lockdown – all schools will be closed until mid-February.
In a televised address to the nation, the prime minister tabled plans to lift new restrictions to curb rising infection rates.
He described the rate at which the new variant was spreading as “alarming” and said hospitals in England were under more pressure than at any point in the pandemic.
Mr Johnson urged the public to “stay home” except for essential reasons such as grocery shopping and exercise.
All schools and colleges in England will be closed Tuesday through the half year of February – with the exception of vulnerable children and children of key workers – in a major U-turn.
On Sunday, Mr Johnson insisted schools were safe and urged parents in England to send primary school children back to the classroom on Monday when their school is open.
The blocking takes effect immediately. The regulations are expected to be published on Tuesday.
It is expected to last until mid-February when halftime falls – but there is no set end date.
The prime minister admitted he knew how “frustrated” the public was with restrictions on their daily life and urged people to “pull together”.
He said: “The coming weeks will be the most difficult but I really believe that we are entering the final phase of the fight because with every push that goes into our arms we tilt the odds against Covid and in favor of the British people. “
Mr Johnson signed his address in a revival of his old slogan: “Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives”.