Boris Johnson has warned of a “new year national lockdown” if coronavirus restrictions are not enforced over the winter months.
The Prime Minister said the new tiered measures for England, which will see millions of people living under the toughest curbs from next Wednesday, are essential to keep the disease under control.
He told a Number 10 news conference that he was “sorry” about the effect the tier system would have.
But he said there was an “escape” route from the restrictions, adding: “Your tier is not your destiny.”
On Thursday it was announced that London would be placed under Tier 2 restrictions, which will allow for a limited reopening of hospitality and other businesses.
Some 55 million people will be in the toughest Tier 2 and Tier measures across the country.
Mr Johnson said: “If we ease off now we risk losing control over this virus all over again, casting aside our hard-won gains and forcing us back into a new year national lockdown with all the damage that would mean,” he said.
“I know this will bring a great deal of heartache and frustration especially for our vital hospitality sector.
“I really wish it were otherwise but if we are going to keep schools open, as we must, then our options in bearing down on the disease are necessarily limited.
“There is no doubt that the restrictions in all tiers are tough and I am sorry about that.”