Politicians have reacted to the third national lockdown, which came into force on Wednesday.

On that day, 59 new cases were confirmed in Test Valley, bringing the total number of cases to 2,874. There has been one death in the borough attributed to Covid-19 in the last 28-day reporting period, bringing the total number to 140.

MP for North West Hamsphire, Kit Malthouse, described the news of a third lockdown as a “bitter blow” but said that “better times are near at hand”.

He said: “Sadly the arrival of the new Covid variant, and its accelerating transmission through London, much of the south east and now the rest of the country, means another national lockdown is necessary to avoid the NHS being overwhelmed.

“While numbers in NW Hants are below average, they are rising very rapidly, and we all have to do our bit to get ahead of this awful virus, while the vaccines are rolled out.

“This will come as a bitter blow to everyone I know. After the toughest of years in 2020, we really didn’t need this to start 2021.  But two vaccines are now being administered rapidly and a third will follow soon. Better times are near at hand, but for the moment I’m afraid we must all stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives, once again.”

Fellow MP Danny Kruger, representing Devizes, which includes Tidworth and Ludgershall, said that “the rate of infection is simply too high to permit even the limited social contact that is allowed” under the tier system.

He said: “We now know that rescue is coming, indeed, is here already. As [the Prime Minister] explained, the NHS plans to vaccinate all care home residents and staff, and everyone with extreme vulnerability, by mid February. From there, we can start to unlock our society once again, and finally emerge from the shadow of coronavirus.

“The Government has not got everything right in its response to the pandemic - far from it, and a proper inquiry must be held to learn the lessons. But some things have been done right and the commissioning of the vaccines is, so far, a great success story for the UK. I desperately hope that, this time, the promises of ‘world-beating’ processes are justified and we do indeed meet the ambitious timetable the PM has set out.

“To do so we all need to play our part. Please stay at home.”

The leader of Test Valley Borough Council, Councillor Phil North, echoed their calls, saying: “I don’t think any of us will be surprised about these tougher measures, and whilst it’s great news that the vaccination programme is going to speeded up yet further, it seems that we’ve still got some hard work ahead of us.

“Whilst this is undoubtedly a worrying time, I want to reassure residents that Test Valley Borough Council will continue to ensure our communities are well supported. If you’re Clinically Extremely Vulnerable or self isolating and need help with food or medicines then there is support available.”

He asked members of the public who were self-isolating to check the list of community groups available in Test Valley on Unity’s website, or to call the Test Valley Community Helpline on 0330 400 4116.