New Delhi: Ahead of a Parliament vote on Tuesday to implement England’s move into a tier-based COVID-19 lockdown from later this week, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday called for “unity and resolve” and also issued another letter in an attempt to placate rebellious colleagues within his own Conservative Party. Also Read - Eating These Food Items Can Reduce Your Risk of Dying Owing to COVID-19
In the letter addressed to members of the COVID Research Group (CRG), the UK Prime Minister stressed that the new measures were “necessary”. The group is set up by backbench Tory MPs concerned about the wider impact of further localised lockdowns at the end of the national stay-at-home shutdown which ends on Wednesday. Also Read - You Can Spread COVID Even After Getting Vaccinated - All About Precautions During 3 Crucial Weeks
The prime minister has also accommodated one of the CRG’s key demands and agreed to publish the health, economic and social data behind England’s new tier system later. Also Read - India Cricketers Asked to Submit Negative COVID-19 Test Before Entering Chennai Bio-bubble: Report
“The government is seeking as far as possible to listen to criticism and respond positively to constructive proposals,” he wrote.
“There is every reason to hope and believe that the worst is nearly behind us, so now more than ever is the time to demonstrate unity and resolve,” he urged.
CRG chair Mark Harper said he and his backbench colleagues were “particularly concerned about some of the non-COVID health implications these restrictions have been having”.
The group has urged the government to publish details of what extra support would be made available to sectors particularly bearing the brunt, such as hospitality, as well as a cost-benefit analysis of the new tier system before Tuesday’s vote.
As part of efforts to address concerns, the government is said to be considering extra funding for pubs and restaurants to help them cope through the next phase of lockdowns.
In a previous letter to all Tory MPs and peers over the weekend, Johnson said the rules in some areas could be eased in December, MPs could vote again on the measures in January, and the tier system could end on February 3.
While the Opposition Labour Party is expected to back the government in the vote on Tuesday, it is yet to confirm this stance, which leaves Johnson open to a Commons defeat of the proposal unless he can curb the rebellion within his own ranks.
England’s new system due to replace the national lockdown when it expires on Wednesday will see regions 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.
The move comes as the latest interim results from an Imperial College London and Ipsos Mori study revealed on Monday that there has been a 30 per cent fall in infections across England between 13 and 24 November, with 96 people per 10,000 infected.
The findings show cases were rising as the country entered lockdown, but this was followed by a decrease as national measures successfully lowered infection rates across the country.
“This latest data shows we must keep our resolve and we cannot afford to take our foot off the pedal just yet, despite the encouraging fall in cases and progress on vaccines, said UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
“The next few weeks and months are the busiest time of year for our NHS, so it’s vital we all continue to follow new local restrictions, wash our hands, wear a face covering and observe social distancing, he said.
The report is the latest from the REACT [Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission] study, which was commissioned by the government’s Department of Health and Social Care and carried out by scientists, clinicians and researchers at Imperial College London, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and Ipsos MORI.
“Our robust data offers encouraging signs for England’s epidemic, where we’re seeing a fall in infections at the national level and in particular across regions that were previously worst affected. These trends suggest that the tiered approach helped to curb infections in these areas and that lockdown has added to this effect,” said Professor Paul Elliott, director of the programme at Imperial.
“As we approach a challenging time of year, it’s even more vital that through our actions and behaviours we all play our part in helping to keep the virus at bay,” he said.
Meanwhile, further 215 deaths within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test have been recorded to bring the UK’s total death toll from the virus to 58,245.
(With PTI inputs)