LOCKDOWN has begun again and is slightly more relaxed than back in March - but what are the main differences between the current lockdown and the original lockdown?

Like in March, people are being told to only leave their house for essential activities such as buying groceries or to provide care to another person.

Non-essential retail has been closed as have entertainment venues and hospitality.

Travelling to and from work will be permitted much like during the other shutdowns, but only when absolutely necessary and only if work cannot be done from home.

The guidance for the current lockdown which is set to run until mid-February, the Government have re-instated the 'stay at home' rule nationwide.

The Government website states that you must not leave, or be outside of your home except for:

- shopping for basic necessities, for you or a vulnerable person

- going to work, or provide voluntary or charitable services, if you cannot reasonably do so from home

- exercising with your household (or support bubble) or one other person, this should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.

- meeting your support bubble or childcare bubble where necessary, but only if you are legally permitted to form one

- seeking medical assistance or avoid injury, illness or risk of harm (including domestic abuse)

- attending education or childcare - for those eligible

There are some differences in this lockdown and the first lockdown the country saw back in March, with some services remaining open during the new national restrictions.

Some guidelines have remained the same including the 'stay at home order' and schools being closed.

The government have re-introduced the 'Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives' motto they launched back in March last year

Like the first lockdown schools will be closed apart from for vulnerable youngsters and children of key workers. In the second lockdown in November, education settings were able to remain open.

The extremely clinically vulnerable who were previously told to shield will be advised stay at home and only leave for medical appointments and exercise - similar to the advice in November.

The measures mark a slight relaxation from last spring, when shielding patients were told to stay at home at all times and medical appointments were advised to be done at home.

What are the differences between the March lockdown and the current national lockdown?

In the newest lockdown, opticians and dentists are able remain open to patients, services which weren't available in the first lockdown.

Garden centres have also kept their doors open, a service which was closed during the first lockdown before they were given the green light to re-open on May 11.

In a relaxation of the rules which were imposed in March, in the third national lockdown social bubbles and childcare bubbles are able to continue.

Support bubbles were introduced in June to allow people living alone to visit someone else's home and stay overnight.

They have been deemed to be essential in the current lockdown to assist the mental health of those living alone.

What will likely come as a relief to parents is that playgrounds will remain open for children, despite the fact that the government closed them during the March lockdown.

Playgrounds re-opened at the start of July by councils after the Prime Minister gave them the go-ahead alongside hospitality, museums and cinemas.

During the March lockdown, outdoor exercise was only allowed with your own family, however in the November lockdown, the Government allowed people to exercise alone with one other person.

This has continued into the third lockdown which officially began today with restrictions allowing a person to individually exercise outdoors with one other person, but you cannot stop to sit on a bench whilst out.

Back in March, churches, mosques and other religious buildings were told to close their doors for individual and communal prayer.

This lockdown, religious buildings are able to remain open for communal worship and individual worship as well as funerals, which were allowed in a limited capacity in last March and weddings which are only allowed in extreme circumstances, such as one of the wedding party being seriously ill.

Advice for communal worship states, "You can leave home to attend or visit a place of worship for communal worship, a funeral or event related to a death, a burial ground or a remembrance garden, or to attend a wedding ceremony."

Funerals can be attended by a maximum of 30 people and weddings and civil partnership ceremonies must only take place with up to six people. Anyone working is not included.

Professional sport in England can continue behind closed doors, unlike last years lockdown, meaning Premier League football and elite leagues in other sports are allowed to carry on.

Building and construction will be able to continue as normal in the current lockdown, after only essential building works were allowed last spring.

Guidance states that construction ” is essential to keeping the country operating”, with tradespeople allowed to work in other people’s homes and builders merchants and building products suppliers able to keep stores open.

One of the biggest, and most important development in the newest lockdown is the release of two vaccines across the country, giving a light at the end of the lockdown tunnel.

Speaking to the commons today (January 6), Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there was “no choice” but to put England back into a nationwide lockdown.

In a statement, he told the Commons: “The tiers, that the House agreed last month, was working with the old variant, but alas this mutation – spreading with frightening ease and speed in spite of the sterling work of the British public – this mutation has led to more cases than we’ve seen ever before.

“Numbers that alas cannot be explained away by the meteoric rise in testing. When the ONS reports that more than 2% of the population is now infected and when the number of patients in hospitals in England is now 40% higher than the first peak in April it is inescapable that the facts are changing and we must change our response.

“And so we have no choice but to return to a national lockdown in England with similar measures being adopted by the devolved administrations, so we can control this new variant until we can take the most likely victims out of its path with vaccines.”