Coronavirus: Prime Minister calls new lockdown "the last phase of the struggle"

Published 05 January 2021

England has moved into Covid Alert Level 5 as Prime Minister Boris Johnson put England into a national lockdown to reduce the spread of Covid-19. But what does that mean for you?

The lockdown means people will only be able to leave their homes for essential reasons, with the new rules expected to stay in place until mid-February.

The new rules will become law in the early hours of Wednesday morning, but should be followed immediately. Johnson also didn't rule out the possibility of the measures remaining in place beyond the initial six-week period.

In an address to the nation on 4 January, the Prime Minister said the new coronavirus variant - which is reportedly 50 to 70 per cent more transmissible – was spreading in a "frustrating and alarming" manner. Referring to the lockdown, Johnson said: "we are entering the last phase of the struggle".

The number of people in hospital with Covid (26,626) is 40 per cent higher than the peak last spring.

New rules

The Government has told people to stay at home, with the only exceptions being: to work if it's impossible to work from home, to shop for essentials, to exercise, to provide care and for a medical appointment. The police will have powers to issue fines or dispersal orders if people are caught flouting the rules.

Where travel is necessary, people have been told to stay local.  

Schools have also closed, with universities delaying students returning until at least February. Children deemed vulnerable or whose parents are key workers will still be able to attend in person.

>>> Scotland locks down for January

MoTs and licences

Unlike the previous lockdowns, there are no current expectations for MoT tests or driving licences to be extended past their expiry date. DVLA says the quickest way to renew a licence is, as always, to use the online service.

If your car is due for an MoT or service, you may be allowed to take it into a local garage. Non-essential repairs are best left until the lockdown is eased or ends entirely.

As with previous lockdowns, motorists should not go for a drive just to get out of the house. If there were an accident or breakdown from an unessential journey, emergency services would likely need to attend - stretching the police and ambulance service.

What's open?

Supermarkets, chemists, garden centres and builders’ merchants may remain open.

Car dealers in England, Scotland and Wales can once again continue to offer a click-and-collect service, while operating a contactless delivery service. Showrooms, however, must close their doors, and tightened travel rules mean test drives won't be allowed.

Businesses that provide repair services may also stay open, as can petrol stations, automatic (but not manual) car washes, vehicle repair and MoT services, bicycle shops, and taxi and vehicle hire businesses.

Garages can remain open in Wales and Scotland, although only for essential repairs and MoTs.

What's closed?

All non-essential shops, entertainment outlets and hotels must close. 

Hotels, hostels and campsites are banned from housing guests, unless providing a roof to people who cannot go home, are enrolled in a homeless support scheme or need accommodation for work.

All restaurants, cafes, pubs, bars and social clubs are banned from opening their doors to customers. Alcohol may no longer be sold as a takeaway, however, food and soft drinks can still be provided via takeaway, click-and-collect and delivery services until 11pm.

Social distancing and travel rules mean driving lessons and tests - both theory and practical - are cancelled until further notice.

International travel

When it comes to international travel, only essential journeys overseas are permitted - such as for work. Pre-departure testing for those coming into the UK is also being introduced.

All passengers excluding hauliers will have to show they had been tested negative Covid up to 72 hours before arrival at a UK airport or port.


Childcare bubbles will continue - meaning a household can provide or receive childcare from one other household if they live with a child aged under-14.

Support bubbles also remain permissible. A person is eligible to form a support bubble if they live alone, if their household includes a child under the age of one or if they are a single adult living with one or more children under the age of 18.

A support bubble may include a maximum of two households. People are advised against switching between different bubbles, too.


People deemed extremely vulnerable have been ordered to shield. They should aim to visit shops or the pharmacy only at quieter times of day, or else ask friends, family or volunteers to collect supplies on their behalf.


First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that most of the country would be placed in lockdown for the rest of January. The announcement was made a few hours before Boris Johnson's.


All of Wales is at alert Level 4, meaning people should stay at home, not mix with other households and not travel without a reasonable excuse. Schools and colleges will remain closed until at least 18 January, meaning online learning will be resumed.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland is in the second week of a six-week lockdown in which non-essential retail is closed, and people are urged to stay at home. Car showrooms are also closed and are currently prohibited from offering home delivery or click and collect services.


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