RESIDENTS have been urged to stay at home as the country goes into a national lockdown.

In a televised speech last night, the Prime Minister announced that England will enter a new lockdown as the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise.

People have been told to leave home only to go to work if they cannot work from home, to exercise, to buy necessities, to seek medical help and to escape domestic abuse.

Primary and secondary schools as well as colleges will move to online learning but will remain open for vulnerable pupils and children of key workers.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "We should remain conscious of the timetable ahead but if our understanding of the virus doesn't change dramatically once again, if the rollout of the vaccine programme continues to be successful, if deaths start to fall as the vaccine takes effect and if everyone plays their part by following the rules then I hope we can steadily move out of lockdown, reopening schools after the February half term."

Those deemed Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) will also have to start shielding again.

The news comes as the new variant of Covid-19 spreading across the country is believed to be between 50 per cent and 70 per cent more transmissible than the original one.

Residents across Hampshire have been urged to follow the rules.

Cllr Keith Mans, leader of Hampshire County Council, said: "Over the past seven days, we have seen the number of positive cases rise substantially. This is of huge concern. Now more than ever we must work together to keep ourselves, our loved ones and our communities safe.”

MPs across the county backed the announcement of a new lockdown.

Steve Brine MP said: "When Hampshire went into Tier 4 on Boxing Day I said, if this was about getting ahead of the curve, it would be wise to put the whole country into lockdown then because few doubted that’s where will end up in January.

“Truth is, the virus has outpaced everyone - across the world - and the new variant leaves our Government with absolutely no choice but whichever way you look at this, it's a disaster for our economy and our society.

“The thing that is different this time, and promises to end the ruinous cycle of lockdown and release is the vaccine but unless we see nationwide a programme that has the ambition to match the challenge that promise will allude us and 2021 will be a lot like 2020.

“I am pressing Ministers at every opportunity, publicly and privately, to publish that vaccination roadmap and clarify exactly what supply we actually have when, because literally everything now rests on that.

“Personally I think schools, certainly primary schools and older settings for exam cohorts, should be open this month with rigorous testing and priority vaccination for teachers and support staff but it seems that decision has been made in the other direction.”

Meon Valley MP Flick Drummond said: “Some of the figures clearly explained by the Prime Minister on how infection rates are rising, that the death toll will continue to accelerate and how, if transmission of the new variant of Covid is not halted, NHS capacity will be overwhelmed in 21 days, mean the country has no choice but to lockdown.

“I know this is deeply disappointing for pupils, parents and businesses across the Meon Valley and in the coming weeks I will be doing all I can to support as many people as I can.

“The PM was clear in his announcement much has changed since March last year and we have hope things will return to normal by the spring.

“The NHS is rapidly scaling up its vaccine capacity and in this dark moment we are finally in a position to start rolling back this pandemic as more and more people receive vaccinations.

“It will take time, as the PM said, but it is happening right now, and this means there is an end to the terrible time the whole world has endured for more than nine months. The middle of February will be a crucial moment.

“We now know there are rocky times ahead. This is why this action has been taken and why I support it. I can only ask people to please go the final mile and keep to these new rules. It will save lives.”