LEADERS across Romsey and Test Valley have backed the Prime Minister's decision to plunge the nation into a third lockdown in a bid to curb soaring coronavirus cases.

In a televised address on Monday night, Boris Johnson announced a new 'stay at home' order - similar to the March-style lockdown.

This means residents are allowed out only for a few reasons - medical assistance, essential shopping, essential work, escaping domestic abuse among them.

The Prime Minister previously said he expects the lockdown will last until the middle of February and hoped at that point nearly 14 million people will have all been offered the first dose of a vaccine.

However, the newly published five-page lockdown document, released late on Tuesday just hours before the start of lockdown, says the rules could be in place until March 31.

Deputy leader for Test Valley Borough Council, Cllr Nick Adams-King, agreed lockdown was the right move to stop hospitals from being overwhelmed.

This comes as the UK's coronavirus alert level is set to be raised from 4 to 5, the highest level, for the first time.

The chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have warned the NHS could be overwhelmed within 21 days "in several areas" without further action.

Mr Adams-King said: "From my links to the health service, I know that the pressure on hospitals increased enormously in the last week and, because of the speed of that increase, the most sensible thing to do is to go into lockdown immediately.

"The speed of infections and the number of people being admitted into hospitals quickly means there is a risk health services could be overwhelmed.

"I get that it is really inconvenient for everyone, but we have to do what we can to keep as many people safe as possible."

County councillor for Romsey Town, Mark Cooper, agreed drastic action was needed to stop coronavirus rates spiralling out of control.

He was worried to discover an estimated one in 50 people in private households in England had Covid-19 between December 27 and January 2, according to new figures published by the Office for National Statistics.

He said: "It was absolutely essential to have a lockdown when we bear in mind one in 50 people were carrying coronavirus.

"It is a really worrying time, so I am all in favour of a very firm lockdown."

He added: "We are on the home straight now and we have got to get through this before things start to get better in the spring."

Cllr Dorothy Baverstock, who represents Romsey Cupernham on Test Valley Borough Council, said entering another lockdown was inevitable, believing not enough people were taking Tier 4 restrictions seriously.

She said: "Some people were not taking any notice of what the scientists or the Government said and decided it was a bit of a free for all.

"What started to happen was the number of cases went up, so here we are now back in lockdown for at least another six weeks."

However, there was some good news this week with the rollout of the Oxford and AstraZeneca vaccine kicking off in the UK on Monday.

Just over half a million doses of the newly approved vaccine became available, with the Government aiming to administer two million per week.