UK MPs are gearing up to rebel against Boris Johnson and his “revamped”, tougher, alert level tier allocations as the country is emerging from its four-week national coronavirus lockdown on 2 December, reports The Guardian.
The Prime Minister has been witnessing the threat of a backbench revolt ever since it became evident that 99 percent of the country’s population would find themselves falling into the two toughest COVID-19 tiers next week.
Members of Johnson’s own Conservative party have been urging that the government publish an assessment of the impact that impending tightened rules will potentially have on slashing infection rates and how this measures up against the effect it will have on people's livelihoods and on businesses.
After MPs vote on the new regulations next Tuesday, approximately 57.3 percent of England, about 32 million people, will fall into Tier 2 – the ‘High’ coronavirus level, while 23.3 million people, constituting 41.5 per cent of the population, are potentially facing Tier 3 restrictions as their areas fall under the ‘Very High’ tier restrictions, writes the publication.
Meanwhile, as large swathes of the Midlands, the North-East and the North-West find themselves subject to the severest measures taken to try and curb the spread of the respiratory disease, figures reportedly suggest that, of the 119 areas set to be designated as Tier 3, only eight have reported a rise in coronavirus cases.
"By forcing so much of the country into those really tough restrictions, especially places where the rates of infection have been falling to much lower levels, I think the government has given itself a much harder job," Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of Conservative MPs, was quoted as saying by the outlet.
As many as 70 Tories could vote against the plan or abstain, says the outlet.
This especially applies to those Conservatives whose constituencies were under the tier 1 (Medium) restrictions before the country moved into national lockdown on 5 November, yet now found their areas designated as tier 2 (High) or tier 3( Very High).
“We went into lockdown at tier 1 and came out at tier 3. This isn’t working for us,” Tom Tugendhat, a senior backbencher representing Tonbridge and Malling in Kent was quoted as saying.
Some, like Jonathan Djanogly, MP for Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, who voted against the current lockdown, vow to vote against the impending new restrictions.
“My constituency went into second lockdown, against my wishes, at tier 1 and, with great cost to the local economy, has come out of lockdown at tier 2 – am I missing something here? I will need to have this justified before voting for it,” said Djanogly.
Feeding into the debate are figures that apparently show that some parts of London, scheduled to fall into tier 2, registered a higher infection rate than other towns and cities which were to be placed under tier 3 restrictions. Other areas, such as Kent, south Gloucestershire and north Somerset, were to be propelled straight from the former tier 1 into the highest level of coronavirus restrictions.
Although the tiers across England are scheduled to be reviewed on 16 December, The Times reported earlier that restrictive measures may not eased until the middle of January.
Despite the fact that Downing Street has responded to the Tory grumblings by promising to publish an impact assessment of the measures prior to the vote on 1 December, Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the COVID Recovery Group of Conservative MPs, branded the government’s moves as "authoritarianism at work".
Sir Roger Gale, MP for the Kent constituency of North Thanet, which is to fall into Tier 3, was quoted by Sky News as voicing concerns that locals will "skip over the boundary" to visit a nearby pub in Tier 2.
Measures Expected to ‘Hold the Line’
Earlier, as the Prime Minister and UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock lauded the impending measures as vital for supporting the advances made in the fight against the virus, Boris Johnson said:
"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. The tough measures in our winter plan are the best way to avoid this outcome."
Hancock added that "these are not easy decisions, but they have been made according to the best clinical advice".
At a Downing Street briefing on Thursday Professor Chris Whitty suggested that while Tier 2 measures are expected to "hold the line" - meaning that the restrictions will likely stop infection rates rising, but may not contribute to them falling in a meaningful way.
"Tier 3 we think based on previous experiences is strong enough to pull things down from a higher peak," he explained.
As UK Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance warned that a "very high" number of people, one in 85, have currently tested positive for COVID-19 in the country, he added:
"The tiers worked in terms of slowing but didn't work in terms of flattening and reversing it. The national lockdown looks as if it has flattened it and is sending it downwards and it is important we do bring it down because numbers remain high."
To soften the impact for regions falling under the Tier 3 coronavirus alert level, the government is promising them access to rapid-result COVID-19 tests and cash subsidies, with the latter also to be offered to areas placed into Tier 2.
- Tier 1
Only three areas are to fall in the lowest tier:
South East: Isle of Wight
South West: Cornwall; Isles of Scilly
Areas in the lowest tier will have some restrictions relaxed, while the rule of six will apply indoors and outdoors.
Spectator sports can resume with a crowd of 50 percent of capacity, there are exceptions in all tiers for childcare and support bubbles.
When national restrictions end on 2nd December we will return to a regional tiered approach for England.— Public Protection Partnership (@PublicPP_UK) November 24, 2020
Tier 1 - Medium Alert
Tier 2 - High Alert
Tier 3 - Very High Alert
For more information:https://t.co/gKjqIXWFyh pic.twitter.com/ItLZcb8Olf
- Tier 2
In areas to be placed in tier two you cannot socialise indoors with anyone you do not live with, or who is not in your support bubble.
You are allowed to meet in a group of up to six outside - including in a garden, or a public place.
Shops, gyms and personal care services can reopen. Pubs and bars can only open if they serve substantial meals, and are to shut at 23:00 GMT, with last orders at 22:00 GMT. Sports can resume with up to 2,000 spectators.
All non-essential foreign travel is allowed, subject to quarantine rules, yet people are advised not to travel to and from tier three areas.
- Tier 3
The highest of alert levels had additional restrictions, in line with which you can't mix with anybody you do not live with, or who is not in your support bubble.
You can meet in a group of up to six in other outdoor spaces, such as parks, beaches or countryside.
Hospitality venues, such as bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants must close, except for delivery and takeaway services, and no spectator sports can resume. All indoor entertainment venues must close.
People are advised not to travel to and from tier three areas.