The PM acted “decisively” in announcing a new lockdown in England “in the face of new information”, Rishi Sunak says.
People must now stay at home except for a handful of permitted reasons and schools have closed to most pupils.
The chancellor said the action was “regrettable” but it was “right we take these measures”, which will be reviewed on 15 February, to suppress the virus.
It came after UK chief medical officers recommended the Covid threat level be increased to five – its highest level.
Boris Johnson said vaccinating the top four priority groups by mid-February could allow restrictions to be eased, with Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove telling Sky News the measures may remain until March.
Meanwhile, the prime minister is due to hold a press conference in Downing Street at 17:00 GMT with chief medical officer for England Prof Chris Whitty and the government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance.
Tough new lockdown restrictions forbidding people from leaving home for non-essential reasons have also come into force across the Scottish mainland. Wales has been in a national lockdown since 20 December and Northern Ireland entered a six-week lockdown on 26 December.
The UK reported a record 58,784 cases on Monday, as well as a further 407 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.
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