Boris Johnson tells MPs to back Tier system or face third lockdown

30 November 2020, 08:02 | Updated: 30 November 2020, 08:05

Ministers are standing by the government's three-tier system despite a potential Tory rebellion
Ministers are standing by the government's three-tier system despite a potential Tory rebellion. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Boris Johnson has told MPs to stand by the new Covid tier system as the UK's infection rate drops by 35 per cent in a week.

MPs are due to vote on the new measures tomorrow, before they come into force on Wednesday after the end of the national lockdown.

But a growing number of Tory backbenchers are worried they could do more harm than good - and are upset about how areas have been allocated tiers.

The Government is due to publish impact assessments of England's new tiered system of Covid restrictions later today.

It comes as Imperial College's latest monthly React survey of 105,000 people between November 13 and 24 found that coronavirus cases fell to 72,000 infections per day from around 100,000 new infections per day at the end of October.

On Sunday, Dominic Raab told LBC that England will be "in a much better place" by the spring if the tiered approach is upheld and followed by a successful rollout of the coronavirus vaccine.

The foreign secretary warned that the country could face a third wave of infections if ministers do not "get the balance right" with Covid restrictions.

He also defended the government's three-tier system, which has come under fire from backbench Tories who are considering a rebellion when the strategy is put to a vote in the Commons on Tuesday.

However, to stave off the revolt, Boris Johnson wrote to Conservative MPs on Saturday offering a 3 February "sunset" - or expiry date - for the tier strategy, which would give them the chance to vote on any future extension.

It comes as Britain's Sunday death toll was cut almost in half after the country recorded a further 215 coronavirus-related fatalities, down 46 per cent on last Sunday's tally of 398.

Read more: PM offers Tory rebels 3 February 'sunset' for Covid tier system

Coronavirus crisis in numbers: LBC brings you the stats you need to know

It means the country's death toll now stands at 58,245, however the real number is expected to be closer to 73,000 with other figures taken into consideration.

Meanwhile, there have been a further 12,155 lab-confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of infections in the UK to 1,617,327.

But that number is also down by 35 per cent from the 18,662 that were recorded last Sunday.

It follows a steady decrease in infections across the country, with Saturday's week-on-week case numbers dropping by roughly one-fifth.

Read more: Government asks regulator to assess Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine

Read more: PM appoints Nadhim Zahawi as minster for Covid vaccine rollout

Over the weekend, the prime minister pleaded with Brits not to "trip on the last barbed wire and blow it" by flouting coronavirus rules.

Mr Raab told LBC’s Swarbrick on Sunday the relaxation of the restrictions over Christmas is a recognition of “the emotional, spiritual, the moral sense that families do need to come together and be able to do so”.

He added: “People do feel that they want to get together with their loved ones. I think you do have to take into account that human element and that is what the government is doing.”

The foreign secretary also said the country could be out of “all of the particularly intrusive levels of restrictions that we have got, whether it is under a national lockdown or a tiered approach by the spring”.

This would rely on the vaccine being “disseminated across the most at-risk levels of our society and community, but also key workers”.

Mr Rabb continued: “We think by the spring - subject to the regulatory approvals around the vaccine - we think we will be in a much better place.”

The glimmer of hope for an end to coronavirus restrictions in spring comes as the government faces a rebellion on its backbenches over the new tiering system, which will come into force at the end of the national lockdown.

Boris Johnson has been facing growing dissent after it was announced that 99 per cent of the country would be placed into Tiers 2 and 3 when the second nationwide lockdown ends on Wednesday.

Conservative MP Greg Clark, chair of the science committee, told Swarbrick on Sunday: “I can’t support a proposal that very unfairly takes an area with such a very low comparative level of infection and puts it in a category that is the very highest in the country.”

Meanwhile, the medicines regulator has been formally asked by the government to assess the Oxford University/AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines.

If approved, a vaccine could be rolled out from December, with Nadhim Zahawi appointed on Saturday to oversee the vaccine rollout.

The UK Government has secured access to 100 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab and 40 million of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

Listen & subscribe: Global Player | Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify