Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that everyone in England must stay at home except for permitted reasons during a new coronavirus lockdown expected to last until mid-February. All schools and colleges will close to most pupils and switch to remote learning from today.

Mr Johnson urged people to follow the rules immediately amid surging cases and patient numbers. He said those in the top four priority groups would receive a first vaccine dose by the middle of next month.

Speaking from Downing Street, Mr Johnson said all the new measures would last until at least the middle of February. He said the weeks ahead would be the "hardest yet" as a new more infectious variant of the virus spreads across the UK.

The Prime Minister added that he believed the country was entering "the last phase of the struggle". And he reiterated the slogan used earlier in the pandemic, urging people to "stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives".

Scotland earlier issued a stay-at-home order and joined Wales in closing classrooms for most pupils. Northern Ireland's Stormont Executive is also meeting to discuss possible new measures. The UK has recorded more than 50,000 new confirmed Covid cases for the seventh day in a row.

A further 58,784 cases and an additional 407 deaths within 28 days of a positive test result were reported, though deaths in Scotland were not recorded. Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable will be contacted by letter and should now shield once more, Mr Johnson said.

Support and childcare bubbles will continue under the new measures - and people can meet one person from another household for outdoor exercise. Communal worship and life events like funerals and weddings can continue, subject to limits on attendance.

While the PM said end-of-year exams would not take place as normal in the summer, he said alternative arrangements would be announced separately. The government has published a 22-page document outlining the new rules in detail.

The House of Commons has been recalled to allow MPs to vote on the new restrictions. The Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said that his MPs would "support the package of measures", saying "we've all got to pull together now to make this work".