London: Amid an ongoing second Covid-19 wave, a new four-week lockdown in England came into force on Thursday, under which people will have to stay at home, while non-essential shops, pubs and gyms will remain closed.
The lockdown came into effect after MPs on Wednesday voted in its favour by 516 to 39, a majority of 477, the BBC reported.
It will replace the three tiers of regional restrictions that were previously in place across England.
On December 2, MPs will again vote on the next steps needed to tackle the virus before the lockdown comes to an end.
Under the new rules, households are banned from mixing indoors or in private gardens, unless in a support bubble.
All non-essential retailers, leisure and entertainment venues will be shut, with pubs and restaurants will be closed except for takeaways.
In a warning, Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs Council, said that those responsible for the most “egregious” breaches of the rules would face stiff fines.
Unlike the first lockdown in March, schools, universities, and nurseries will remain open, and people will be able to meet another person who they do not live within an outdoor public place such as a park or beach.
During a debate in the House of Commons before the vote, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the second lockdown was “not something any of us wanted to do” but “I am not prepared to take the risk with the lives of British people”, the BBC reported.
“While it pains me to call for such restrictions on lives, liberty and business I have no doubt that these restrictions represent the best and safest path for our country,” he told MPs.
Johnson insisted the lockdown will expire automatically on December 2 and he hopes “very much” to “get this country going again” in the run-up to Christmas.
On Thursday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak will address the House of Commons during which he will outline what economic support will be available to businesses and jobs during the lockdown.
On Wednesday, the UK reported 492 news coronavirus deaths, the highest daily figure since May 19, and 25,177 confirmed cases.
With the new tallies, the UK’s overall caseload and death toll stood at 1,102,305 and 47,832, respectively.