The second national Covid lockdown in England is set to go ahead after MPs voted to approve new regulations to enforce it.
Boris Johnson managed to fend off a backbench Tory rebellion over the fresh restrictions, thanks in part to Labour’s decision to support the nationwide move.
MPs voted by 516 to 38, a majority of 478, to endorse the 2020 Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations, which will last for a month until December 2.
The rules will come into force at one minute past midnight, after the House of Lords approves them later on Wednesday.
Under the raft of new draconian regulations, the public will be heavily restricted from leaving home and from mixing with other households.
New rules on care homes mean that visitors will have to pass through a holding area before meeting a relative.
In schools, pupils in England over the age of 11 will have to wear face masks in hallways and corridors for the first time.
The margin was comfortable despite a string of Conservatives warning the PM that the new curbs were not justified and would harm the economy more than they would ease the health crisis.
Former premier Theresa May was the most eye-catching of the rebels, one of 55 Tory MPs who failed to back the government.
Ex-Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith and former minister Steve Baker were among the 34 rebels who voted against the lockdown. A further 21 Tories, including May, abstained.
Johnson had earlier said he “absolutely understands” the concerns about the curbs and was not imposing them “lightly”, but he stressed that they were essential to protecting the NHS from being overwhelmed.
That warning was underscored earlier when NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens announced that the equivalent of 22 hospitals were now filled with Covid patients, as he put the health service on its highest emergency alert level.
But he failed to satisfy a string of Tory MPs who claimed they had been forced to vote in the dark without any economic impact assessment.
In a withering speech, May accused Johnson of choosing data to fit his coronavirus policies, as she insisted the Government must reveal the economic cost of lockdown and its impact on mental health.
Johnson was not in the chamber to hear the criticism, as he opted to leave shortly after she got to her feet and acknowledged that she did not “envy” the decisions facing him and the Government.
It was reported that he later wrote a note of apology to May for having to leave during her speech for an urgent meeting.
Duncan Smith attacked the weekend leaking of the lockdown plan to the media, saying the leaker should be sacked and “strung up to dry”.
“I thought the leak is appalling, that … whoever did it should be sacked, strung up to dry, come here to apologise, grovelled out the door on hands and knees and beaten on the way out, frankly.
“It is appalling because what they did was bounce the Government, and they bounced the Government because I’d like to think that the Government would have then spent its time investigating the data that was being presented to them that has now subsequently unravelled in the last few days.”