England is now once again set to enter its toughest COVID lockdown since March, with schools closed until mid-February. The lockdown will last for at least seven weeks.

UK Prime Ministers Boris Johnson has warned that the coming weeks “will be the hardest yet,” urging people to stay at home.

Any ease in lockdown measures would not come into effect until February 22.

Johnson also announced that all schools will have to switch to online learning until mid-February.

He said parents would “reasonably ask why we did not make this decision sooner,” adding, “I completely understand the inconvenience and distress this late change will cause millions of parents and pupils up and down the country.”

Addressing the nation, Johnson reassured that more than 12 million of the most vulnerable in society, including care home residents and staff, frontline health workers, and all above the age of 70, will get their first dose of vaccine by mid-February.

The PM said the UK was entering “the last phase of the struggle,” adding, “With every jab that goes into our arms, we are tilting the odds against COBID and in favor of the British people.”

The order comes amid a significant number of hospitalizations in England and death tolls. On Monday, there were more than 26,600 COVID hospitalizations in England, up 30% from a week earlier.

Across the UK, health officials reported more than 80,600 positive tests on December 29 – three times higher than at the start of December.

The UK’s chief medical officers have recommended that the COVID alert has now moved to its highest level, meaning there is a “material risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed” and necessitating extremely strict social distancing.

The said, “We are not confident that the NHS can handle a further sustained rise in cases and without further action, there is a material risk of the NHS in several areas being overwhelmed over the next 21 days,” urging people who still need emergency care for other medical conditions to seek treatment.

Johnson blamed the new, rapidly-spreading strain of the virus for a third national lockdown.

“There is no doubt that in fighting the old variant of the virus, our collective efforts were working and would have continued to work,” he said. “But we now have a new variant of the virus. It has been both frustrating and alarming to see the speed with which the new variant is spreading.”

The third lockdown is set to come into effect as soon as possible. However, Johnson said the new orders should be followed as soon as possible and people should not wait for new regulations to be passed. The news was published on The Guardian.