Lockdown rules which could keep England in shutdown until March 31 have been overwhelmingly backed by MPs.
Legislation ordering people to stay at home and shuttering most hospitality and non-essential retail passed by 524 votes to 16 – with a majority of 508.
But Boris Johnson faced anger from Tory MPs as the small print revealed that the laws could remain in force until the end of March – despite promises it would be reviewed in February.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock tried to reassure backbenchers that he did not expect a full national lockdown to be in place until March 31, but rebuffed calls for regular votes.
The lockdown came into effect at midnight on Wednesday but the legislation is being approved retrospectively.
Mr Johnson announced the shutdown on Monday as coronavirus rates rocketed following the emergence of the highly-transmissible new variant before Christmas.
A further 1,041 people died on Wednesday – the highest daily reported total since April 21.
Strict curbs on daily life will be enforced through a new law called the Health Protection ( Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 3) and (All Tiers) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2021.
It puts all of England into Tier 4 legally and tightens up the rules – with police able to issue £200 fines.
People must stay at home and may only leave if they have a “reasonable excuse” such as food shopping, exercise or a medical appointment.
While people are urged to take exercise only once per day, that is not a legal requirement.
Other parts of the Tier 4 rules have been toughened up however. Zoos and animal attractions must shut and takeaway pints are banned.
PCSOs have also been granted the same powers as police officers to enforce more of the lockdown-related laws.
Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police indicated a tougher approach to those flouting the lockdown with officers expected to be more “inquisitive” about why people are “out and about”.
All schools have been shut until mid-February at the earliest, except for vulnerable youngsters and the children of key workers.
A string of Tory MPs expressed concern about the legislation.
Senior backbencher Charles Walker said the rules will “break” people and slammed constituents for bragging about “having a good lockdown”.
“I can’t support criminalising a parent for seeing a child in the park over the coming months, it’s not within my DNA to do that,” he said.
Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell said he would not support the lockdown measures, which he called a “fundamental assault” on freedom.
Tory backbench chief Sir Graham Brady said the rules could allow lockdown to drag on for nearly three months.
He asked Mr Hancock to commit to giving votes to MPs at the end of January and end of February on the rules.
The Health Secretary replied: “While these regulations do provide for new restrictions until the end of March, it is not because we expect the full national lockdown to continue until then but to allow the steady, controlled and evidence-led move down through the tiers on a local basis.
“Those tier changes do require a vote in Parliament.
“The restrictions will therefore be kept under continuous review, there’s a statutory requirement to review every two weeks and a legal obligation to remove them if they’re no longer deemed necessary to limit the transmission of the virus.”
Ex-minister Mark Harper, who chairs the Covid Recovery Group of lockdown sceptics, asked “what possible reason” would prevent the Government for loosening the restrictions once the most vulnerable have been vaccinated.
Mr Hancock replied: “We have to see the impact of that vaccination on the reduction in the number of deaths, which I very much hope that we will see at that point, and so that is why we will take this – an evidence-led move down through the tiers, when we’ve broken the link, I hope, between cases and hospitalisations and deaths.”