London (TIP): UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was on Friday fighting back rebels from within his own Conservative Party who are opposed to most of England being put into the toughest two tiers of high COVID-19 alert after the country’s second stay-at-home lockdown ends next Wednesday.
In a Downing Street briefing on Thursday after he ended his self-isolation on being in contact with a COVID-19 positive MP, Johnson defended the three-tier system as the best chance of avoiding a third complete national lockdown in the New Year.“If we ease off now, we risk losing control of this virus all over again, casting aside our hard-won gains, and forcing us back into a New Year national lockdown with all the damage that would mean,” said Johnson. “Under our Winter Plan, England will return to a tiered system of local restrictions. Our decisions on which area enters which tier are based on public health advice according to five indicators: cases across all ages, especially the over 60s, the rate by which cases are rising or falling, the percentage of those tested in a local population who have COVID-19, and the pressure on the NHS,” he said.
However, the COVID Recovery Group (CRG), made up of Tory backbenchers within his party, said it was “authoritarianism at work”. “There is no logic whatsoever in having a month of lockdown only for people to have to live under an even more severe set of restrictions afterwards,” said Harriett Baldwin, the Tory MP for West Worcestershire, which has been placed in Tier 2.
Johnson has a comfortable 80-strong majority in the House of Commons but if 40 of his own MPs vote down his Winter Plan when it comes for a vote next Tuesday, he will have to rely on support from the Opposition to get it through. And, the Labour Party is expected to decide only early next week whether to back the plans after consultation with government coronavirus experts.
Under plans laid out in the Commons on Thursday, only three areas of England – Cornwall, the Isle of Wight and Isles of Scilly – have been placed into the lowest Tier 1 or the medium restrictions category, with most of England either in Tier 2 or 3. Under the highest Tier 3 alert level, there is a complete ban on mixing of households except in limited outdoor settings. For Tier 2, the rule of six applies with up to six members of different households allowed to meet outdoors and under Tier 1, the rule of six applies both indoors and outdoors. PTI