British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a second national lockdown for England as the country passed the milestone of one million COVID-19 cases on Saturday.
Only essential shops, nurseries, schools and universities will remain open in a month-long lockdown from November 5 until December 3.
Takeaways will be allowed to stay open but pubs, bars and restaurants will have to close.
“From Thursday, until the start of December, you must stay at home,” Johnson said in a press conference on Saturday.
“Christmas will be different, but it’s my sincere belief that if we take precautions now, we can allow families to be together later.”
The UK Parliament will debate and vote on the new measures on Wednesday.
The new national lockdown represents a dramatic change of policy for the prime minister, who has been saying for months that it will not be necessary.
Two weeks ago he defended his strategy of a patchwork of local restrictions by saying he wanted to avoid the “misery of a national lockdown”.
The United Kingdom, which has the biggest official death toll in Europe from COVID-19, is grappling with more than 20,000 new coronavirus cases a day and scientists have warned the “worst case” scenario of 80,000 dead could be exceeded.
“Unless we act, we could see the death rate running at several thousand a day,” Johnson said.
The prime minister held a cabinet meeting on Saturday after government scientists warned the outbreak was going in the wrong direction and that action was needed to halt the spread of the virus if families were to have any hope of gathering at Christmas.
Johnson was criticised by political opponents for moving too slowly into the first national lockdown, which stretched from March 23 to July 4.
The measures will bring England into alignment with France and Germany by imposing nationwide restrictions almost as severe as the ones that drove the global economy earlier this year into its deepest recession in generations.