Prime Minister Boris Johnson has addressed the nation yesterday evening in a televised speech which announced a strict national lockdown in order to attempt to supress coronavirus.
The PM claimed that the new, faster spreading variant of Covid-19 is the reason that implementing previously successful approaches to supressing the virus has not worked this winter.
Reacting to the announcement Batley and SPen MP Tracy Brabin said: "I know how hard the two national lockdowns have been, and I know the sacrifices many businesses, self-employed workers, parents and so many others have made during this pandemic and how devastating tonight’s announcements are.
"Regrettably, moving the country into Tier 4 and closing schools is the right thing to do.
"We are seeing more infections in younger people with this new strain, and closing schools is the best way to halt the spread of the virus and allow the vaccine programme to roll out for everyone.
"The government should have listened to teachers, unions and local leaders across the country who said schools shouldn’t return. Government must now roll out the vaccination programme with efficiency and speed so we can have faith that having made these great sacrifices, we will be on the downhill slope to a better future."
In the television address the Prime Minister said that the best approach for the whole of the UK is "a national lockdown that is tough enough to contain this variant."
Reverting back to the message at the forefront of the UK's first lockdown, he reminded viewers to "stay home".
Residents in England are now only permitted to leave home to shop for essentials, work - if they cannot do so from home - seek medical assistance, or to escape domestic abuse.
The clinically extremely vulnerable should recommence shielding. Johnson said these people will soon receive a letter with more information.
Primary schools, secondary schools and colleges must move to remote learning from tomorrow (5 Jan), apart from children of key workers. Nurseries and early years childcare facilities will still open as normal.
Due to disruption in schools, the Prime Minister conceded that it was "not fair" for exams to go ahead as normal in summer. He said alternative arrangements will be made for students affected.
Those entitled to free school meals will still receive them during lockdown, and more tech devices will be given to children who need them, in order to support remote education.
'Schools are vectors for transmission'
Pre-empting criticism about even allowing schools to reopen after the Christmas holidays, the Prime Minister said: "We have been doing everything within our power to keep education open.
"The problem is not that schools are unsafe for children."
However, he went on to dub schools "vectors for transmission, causing the virus to spread between households."
'The pace of vaccination is accelerating'
Nearing the end of his address, Johnson revealed that the UK has now vaccinated more people against Covid-19 than in the rest of Europe combined.
"The pace of vaccination is accelerating," he said.
According to the Prime Minister, the NHS expects to have offered a first vaccine dose (one of two required for each person) to everyone in the four top priority groups by early February. These groups, as detailed on the Government website, are:
Residents in a care home for older adults and staff working in care homes for older adults
All those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers
All those 75 years of age and over
All those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals (not including pregnant women and those under 16 years of age)
The Prime Minister reminded viewers that there is a three week time lag from getting the jab to receiving immunity, and that there will be a further time lag before pressure is lifted from NHS.
"We should remain cautious about the timetable ahead," he said. However, he said that he hopes to reopen schools after the February half term.
'We're entering the last phase of the struggle'
"I know how tough this is, and I know how frustrated you are," Johnson said.
"But now, more than ever, we must pull together."
Citizens are expected to follow the new rules immediately, and they will become law from Wednesday morning (6 Jan).
Finally, the Prime Minister repeated the now familiar mantra of, "Stay at home, protect the NHS, and save lives."
"The weeks ahead will be the hardest yet, but I really do believe that we're entering the last phase of the struggle," he finished.