Westminster has published data that the government claims will justify the decision to introduce England's new regional tier system, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson seeks to placate an increasing number of anti-lockdown rebels.
Downing Street's report claims that the office of the PM is looking to "balance the many complex impacts" of the new pandemic lockdown regulations and keep them in force "for as short a time as possible".
The release described the impact of allowing the coronavirus virus to spread exponentially to be "intolerable for society".
The document also says that an unchecked pandemic will lead to a collapse in the capacity for intensive care to respond to both COVID-19 patients and other emergency assistance, resulting in “a much higher proportion” of deaths.
“Given the catastrophic health costs, both from increased COVID-19 deaths and due to the wider impacts across NHS services, the government is clear that a scenario of the NHS being overwhelmed must be averted, through proportional policy", the document states.
On the virus' reproduction 'R' rate, the report also says that authorities are "confident" that it will be "substantially lower than the counterfactual of no tiering or equivalent measures being in place" and will reduce deaths "in the short term as well as reducing the risk of an overwhelming of the National Health Service".
It also notes that “the initial tier 3 restrictions agreed by local areas in October” may have caused “a reduction in R between a quarter to a half” compared to tier 1 - the lightest of the regulations.
However, in a summary of the financial impacts of the new three-tier system, the government acknowledges that the policy will lead to widespread economic damage.
"Despite the substantive and unprecedented fiscal support given to support public services, households and businesses since March, which the OBR say 'should reduce unnecessary job losses and business failures, thus limiting any persistent ‘scarring’ of the economy’s supply capacity', 56 both the central forecast and downside scenario do lead to economic scarring", the document reads.
The report also admits that personal health is likely to decline.
“We anticipate physical activity will be slightly lower under the tiers,” the impact analysis says, and “alcohol consumption slightly higher”, the report says.
Higher numbers of home accidents and “musculoskeletal disorders” are expected due to home workers having “less access to professional ergonomic advice” will increase the likelihood of cramped setups.
Every 1% drop in employment caused by the new tier system is paired with a 2% spike in the “five categories of chronic illness” – musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, respiratory, mental health, and "other conditions".
MPs are set to vote on the new measures on Tuesday. Regional restrictions will be based on a tougher three-tier system after the most recent total lockdown comes to an end on Thursday.
"We can't afford to take our foot off the throat of the beast... to let it out of control again", the prime minister said to reporters on Monday.
However, senior Tory MP Mel Stride described it as "a rehashed document [that] offers very little further in economic terms".
Stride, who chairs the Treasury Select Committee, called it "frustrating" that there is little in the document "that sets out how the different tiers might impact on the specific sectors and regions across the country".
"Those looking for additional economic analysis of the new tiered system will struggle to find it in this document", he observed.
A large number of Tory backbenchers - many of whom are in the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) - have voiced their opposition, and threatened to oppose the motion in the House of Commons, citing the economic consequences of continued restrictions.
After reports that Johnson may be saved by Labour Party votes, Sir Keir Starmer announced on Monday evening that opposition will abstain on the motion.
However, I remain deeply concerned that Boris Johnson’s Government has failed to use this latest lockdown to put a credible health and economic plan in place.— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) November 30, 2020
The restrictions will see almost all of England placed into tier 2, with other major outbreak centres remaining in tier 3, serving as an effective continuation of the ongoing full lockdown.
Coronavirus infections in England fell around 30% after three weeks of a second national lockdown, according to preliminary results from a random swab testing survey by Imperial College London.
As of 29 November, the UK has recorded at least 12,155 new cases of the coronavirus - a 30% drop since the introduction of the most recent lockdown at the beginning of November.
Currently, total cases in the UK stand at 1.63 million, as the government hopes to roll out the first vaccinations for frontline workers by December.