Boris Johnson Will Relax Some Coronavirus Tiers Before Christmas As He Tries To Head Off A Tory Rebellion
Boris Johnson has written to Tory rebels after they threatened to vote down his new coronavirus tier system (PA)
Boris Johnson has caved in to Tory rebels and agreed to relax some of the tiered coronavirus restrictions before Christmas as more than 70 MPs are set to vote against the measures.
The Prime Minister said in a letter to backbenchers that the whole system has a "sunset of 3 February” next year.
It comes after the announcement that more than 40% of England would leave the second lockdown this week, only to enter the toughest level of constraints, sparked fury among Conservatives.
The number of his own MPs threatening to reject the plans when they are debated in the Commons on Tuesday meant Mr Johnson could be forced to rely on Labour votes to see it passed.
In an attempt to quell the rebellion the PM has confirmed that if there is "robust evidence" Covid-19 is in sustained decline in a particular area by the time of the first review of the measures on 16 December he would move it down a tier.
Any changes would come into effect on 19 December, allowing for a potential relaxation on household mixing and rules around hospitality ahead of the festive period.
The government will continue to review the tier allocation every fortnight, and then bring the regulations before Parliament for another vote after the fourth review on January 27, which will determine whether the tier system stays in place until the end of March, or end a week later.
And in a further olive branch to MPs they have agreed to publish documents outlining what circumstances need to change for an area to move down a tier, as well as cost/benefit analysis of the health, economic and social impacts of the entire system.
But Mr Johnson has also warned there will be "disastrous consequences" for the NHS if the restrictions are voted down and do not come into force when the national lockdown ends on Wednesday.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday he stressed it was too early to relax things, but said he believed Easter would mark a "real chance to return to something like life as normal".
He said: "We can't blow it now. We can't just throw it all away - not when freedom is in sight. We have worked too hard, lost too many, sacrificed too much, just to see our efforts incinerated in another volcanic eruption of the virus...
"We are so nearly out of our captivity. We can see the sunlit upland pastures ahead. But if we try to jump the fence now, we will simply tangle ourselves in the last barbed wire, with disastrous consequences for the NHS.”
This was echoed by the foreign secretary Dominic Raab, who told Sky News coronavirus cases would rise exponentially if restrictions were not applied on a wider level, such as across counties.
"Where you've got low levels in a particular area but it's surrounded by areas others with higher levels,” he said.
"If you don't apply on a wider levels - which is why we're using the countywide basis - the same restrictions, all that happens is the virus in those lower levels... goes up exponentially."
The Cabinet minister added: "The reality is that we want to come out of national lockdown and stay out of it.
"There is hope and there is light at the end of the tunnel at the prospect of regulatory approval of the vaccine being ready to be in place and distributed by the spring, which will allow a real step-change back to life resembling normal.
"The two things we need between now and then are this tiered approach so that we target the virus where it is the most dangerous.
"We are starting with a more restrictive approach than previously with the localised approach, but that allows us to ease up when we are confident the virus is going down and stabilised - there's a review every two weeks.
"The second thing is the testing and what we've seen, we've had 12 million people tested and we've seen in Liverpool with the community-wide testing... that really helps us to bear down on the virus.
"Those two things are the crucial bridge to that light at the end of the tunnel in the spring."
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