UK Parliamentarians on Tuesday are set to vote on the government’s tier-based coronavirus lockdown as the country’s health minister said the COVID-19 situation was “back under control” but vigilance was necessary.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock attempted to rally lockdown sceptics at a Downing Street briefing on Monday evening, reiterating the need for a regional system of tiers, which come in force after England’s current nationwide lockdown ends on Wednesday.
“While we can let up a little, we can’t afford to let up a lot,” said Hancock.
“We’ve reduced pressures on the NHS (National Health System), we’ve brought down the number of coronavirus cases, we’ve got this virus back under control? The success of our collective efforts means that from Wednesday, everyone in England, even those in tier three, can have some greater freedoms ? but we don’t have much headroom,” he said.
In the new system, regions will be placed in one of three tiers: medium, high and very high. Nearly all of England will be in the highest two tiers, with tight restrictions on bars and restaurants and a ban on households mixing indoors. Only Cornwall, the Isle of Wight and Isles of Scilly will be in the lowest tier.
Many Conservative Party MPs are opposed to the new measures and are likely to vote against the move in the House of Commons on Tuesday, despite UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s several interventions to placate party colleagues, including the anti-lockdown COVID Recovery Group (CRG).
One of the Tory backbenchers planning on voting against the government, Tim Loughton, said there were “too many inconsistencies” within the tier system.
“We can’t afford to take our foot off the throat of the beast… to let it out of control again,” said Johnson, as he admitted the ?tiering system is tough?.
“What we can’t do is forsake and abandon all the gains we have made now just when we are starting to see real progress in the science,” he said.
With Opposition parties Labour and the Scottish National Party (SNP) abstaining from the vote, the latest measures are expected to pass the parliamentary hurdle.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he had “serious misgivings” about the government’s plans, but added that it would be “in the national interest” not to vote against them to ensure some restrictions remained.
On Monday, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said a further 12,330 people had tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, while a further 205 deaths had been reported within 28 days of a positive test, taking the death toll from the deadly virus to 58,448.