MPs to vote on third national lockdown amid spiralling coronavirus cases

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a press conference, at 10 Downing Street, in London, on t

Prime minister Boris Johnson. - Credit: PA

MPs will today vote on regulations to enforce England's national lockdown, as the stringent restrictions entered into force overnight amid spiralling coronavirus cases, including in Norfolk and Suffolk.

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 Boris Johnson 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 tonight.

The measures are expected to pass, with Labour set to support the motion.

It comes as the World Health Organisation said it would not recommend witholding 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 this morning, as new figures suggested one in 50 people had coronavirus last week - and one in 45 in the East of England.

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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.

The study found the figure for south-east England, eastern England and north-west England is estimated to be one in 45, the next highest behind London, which was one in 30.

Norfolk's deputy public health director Diane Steiner said people in the county should act as if they have coronavirus, to stop the danger of asymptomatic people spreading it to others.

Children at Woodside Junior School in Hethersett help get the message out. Photo: Archant

Norfolk's deputy public health director Diane Steiner. - Credit: Archant

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".

His comments came as the number of daily confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK topped 60,000 for the first time, while a further 830 people died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Tuesday.

But Mr Johnson said more than 1.3 million people have been vaccinated against the virus across the UK so far, including 23pc of all the over 80s in England.

Prof Whitty, speaking alongside Mr Johnson at a Downing Street press conference on Tuesday evening, said the vaccine timetable was "realistic but not easy", and that the NHS would have to use "multiple channels" to get it out.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer urged the Government to use the lockdown to create a "round-the-clock" vaccination scheme in order to end "this nightmare".

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called for a circuit breaker lockdown. Picture: PA Images

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

In a televised response to Mr Johnson's statement, Sir Keir confirmed he would back the new restrictions in the Commons vote today.

In other developments, Mr Johnson announced the government would be "bringing in measures to ensure that we test people coming into this country and prevent the virus from being readmitted"

The latest coronavirus regulations were published just hours ahead of the new laws coming into force.

The five-page document, signed by health secretary Matt Hancock on Tuesday afternoon, states the new regulations "strengthen the Tier 4 restrictions" and "apply those restrictions to every area in England", as well as extending the expiry date for existing regulations.

It lists a series of amendments to previous coronavirus laws rather than setting out the latest legislation in detail.

The rules appear to be similar to current Tier 4 restrictions with minimal changes.

Most existing exemptions -  including going to work if you cannot work from home, shopping for food and medication, carrying out caring and childcare responsibilities, and to escape danger or harm - remain the same.

It includes a ban on businesses, which can continue to sell takeaway food and drink between 11pm and 5am, serving alcohol.

Outdoor sports facilities like swimming pools, gyms and sports grounds must all close, children's outdoor sports gatherings have been scrapped as a reasonable excuse to leave home and parent and child groups are banned as well as "open air recreation".

Exercise is permitted. But neither time nor geographical limits on outdoor exercise, which have been cited in government guidance, are mentioned in the law.

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