New rules follow those announced for Scotland

Construction sites can stay open as the prime minister confirmed that England would be plunged into a third national lockdown.

People will be ordered to stay at home until at least 15 February and advised only to leave once a day for exercise.

boris jab

Boris Johnson visited Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield, north London, yesterday to see some of the first Oxford university/AstraZeneca vaccines being administered

The new measures come into force from tomorrow morning – and will be voted on by MPs later that day – but prime minister Boris Johnson said in last night’s televised announcement that businesses should close with immediate effect.

However - as with the first lockdown - construction sites will be told to carry on working, as will manufacturing, and builders’ merchants have also been classed as essential retail along with supermarkets and chemists.

Government guidance published alongside Johnson’s announcement said this was “essential to keeping the country operating and supporting sectors and employers”.

Tradespeople can also continue to work in other people’s homes while adhering to covid secure guidelines. Architects will be able to carry on with site visits.

The new measures follow the emergence last month of a new variant of covid-19 which the government’s scientists have found to be 50% to 70% more infectious.

Johnson added: “With most of the country already under extreme measures, it’s clear that we need to do more together to bring this new variant under control while our vaccines are rolled out.”

Earlier in the day, Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a similar lockdown starting at midnight last night.

Construction sites north of the border have also been told they can remain open although they have been told to “plan for the minimum number of people needed on site to operate safely and effectively”.

Figures released yesterday showed there were 26,626 covid patients in hospital in England, up 30% on a week earlier. The peak of admissions in the first wave was 18,374 on 12 April but the country is now 40% above that level.

Johnson said across the UK, there were 80,664 positive tests on 29 December, with the case rate three times higher than at the start of last month.

Many are blaming the sharp rise on the new variant identified in the UK which led to a temporary closing of the borders the week before a Brexit deal averted the border chaos that had been predicted in the event of Britain crashing out of the EU. Health secretary Matt Hancock has also told the BBC he is “incredibly worried” about the second new variant that has emerged in South Africa.