As England and most of Scotland are plunged into their third lockdown Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned the coming weeks will be the “hardest yet”.

On Monday night he announced schools and colleges were to be closed and ordered people to stay home in a bid to stop the spread of the new COVID-19 strain.

The new restrictions were announced on the same day that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine had started to be rolled out.

Now with two vaccine programmes being carried out, there is hope that this third and final lockdown may not last as long as the March one.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said: “The more we vaccinate the easier it will be to lift these restrictions.

So far, one million people have been vaccinated and it is hoped by February, more than 13 million will have been inoculated by February.

He added: “We do want to make sure these vaccines are delivered in the safest possible way that we do not waste a drop.

“The process of making sure that the vaccines can be placed in the appropriate vials and then safely injected into people’s arms is a complicated exercise, but the NHS has more than risen to the challenge.”

Meanwhile, Professor Andrew Hayward, from the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), told BBC Radio 4’s Today that locking down the country “will save tens of thousands of lives”.

He added: “This lockdown period we need to do more than just stay at home, wait for the vaccine, we need to be actively bearing down on it.”

The new COVID-19 variant is thought to be up to 70 per cent more transmissible which is why the lockdown rules have been re-introduced.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “It is no exaggeration to say that I am more concerned about the situation we face now than I have been at any time since March last year.”

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