England set for tougher tiered measures when lockdown ends on Dec 2

22 Novembre, 2020, 14:20 | Auteur: Yves Courtet
  • Rishi Sunak

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has warned that "Christmas is not going to be normal" despite England preparing to move out of lockdown and into a strengthened three-tier system of local coronavirus restrictions next month.

More details of the so-called COVID Winter Plan are expected on Monday in a speech to the House of Commons, after Cabinet discussions on Sunday which Johnson will be conducting virtually as he continues to self-isolate following contact with an MP who later tested positive for COVID-19.

"I think, frustrating as it is for all of us, Christmas is not going to be normal this year", he told Sky's Sophy Ridge On Sunday.

And while some local measures will be the same as those in the previous system, some tiers will be strengthened to safeguard the gains made during the national lockdown.

The UK's Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said the number of coronavirus infections in England appears to have "levelled off" in recent weeks, indicating the lockdown has had the desired effect of trying to curb the rapid spread of infection.

He will pledge that the tiers will be reviewed on a regular basis and there will be a Commons vote on the three-tier system before it comes into force.

Ministers will detail what tier each area will be placed into on Thursday.

The COVID Recovery Group (CRG), led by former chief whip Mark Harper and ex-Brexit minister Steve Baker, is threatening to withhold support for Johnson's new measures when the four-week lockdown in England expires on December 2.

The pair have written to Mr Johnson with their demands, in a letter it is claimed has been signed by 70 Conservative MPs, though the individuals have not been identified.

In the letter, the MPs complain: "Even the tiered system of restrictions infringes deeply upon people's lives with huge health and economic costs".

Daily confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK

"We can not support this approach further unless the government demonstrates the restrictions proposed for after December 2 will have an impact on slowing the transmission of COVID, and will save more lives than they cost".

They also raise specific concerns about outside sport, the 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants, closure of non-essential retail and care home visits.

They are optimistic that restrictions can be gradually reduced in the run-up to spring.

Some UK media reports also suggest that Johnson is expected to announce up to a week of freedom from COVID-19 restrictions at Christmas, subject to an agreement with the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The plans emerged as the Government announced a further 341 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for COVID-19 as of Saturday, bringing the United Kingdom total to 54,626.

The NHS is preparing to administer the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine next month, once it has been approved for use in the United Kingdom by regulators, and it will be rolled out more widely in the new year.

Downing Street will hope an easing at Christmas, potential vaccines on the horizon and new scientific evidence will lessen the scale of a rebellion, with the Government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) expected to publish papers on Monday stating that the previous tiers were not strong enough.

"It's very hard to be precise in estimating the particular impact of a one-week restriction", the Chancellor told Ridge.

According to the Treasury, £1bn will be to tackle backlogs and allow patients who have experienced delays this year to be fast-tracked and treated for non-urgent procedures.

And around £500m will fund a Winter Mental Health Plan, helping to support mental health referrals delayed due to the pressures of pandemic and support measures to invest in NHS workers.

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