Under the new rules, people will only be allowed to leave their houses to buy essentials, to work if they can’t do so from home, for exercise, to go to the doctor, and to escape domestic abuse situations, Johnson said.
Primary schools, secondary schools and colleges will be moved to remote learning except in “rare cases,” Johnson said, according to CNBC.
These changes come due to the new variant of COVID-19 that is even more easily transmissible than the regular one. As of Monday (Jan. 4), the U.K. has over 2.6 million cases of the virus and more than 75,000 related deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The U.K. reported 58,784 new cases, and now has had over 50,000 new cases for seven consecutive days.
Chief medical officers in the U.K. recommended that the country move to alert level 5, meaning that if action is not taken, the National Health Service capacity could be “overwhelmed” in 21 days.
“I completely understand the inconvenience and distress this change will cause millions of people and parents up and down the country,” Johnson said, according to CNBC. “The problem isn’t that schools are unsafe for children … the problem is that schools may act as vectors of transmission, causing the virus to spread between households.”
Johnson said it was “clear that we need to do more together to bring this new variant under control while our vaccines are rolled out,” CNBC writes.
The U.K. isn’t alone — governments all across Europe, including those of Germany and France, have also moved to restrict activity while the virus continues to rage. Germany is looking at extending its lockdown through January, as officials concurred that easing restrictions would be a setback. France, meanwhile, is moving its nightly curfew up from 8 p.m. to 6 p.m.