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Saturday, November 28, 2020

Covid: MPs to vote on England's one-month lockdown

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MPs will vote later on the government’s month-long lockdown in England, amid growing unease among Conservatives about the economic and social impact.

The restrictions will come into force just after midnight if approved, and will last until 2 December.

Pubs, restaurants, gyms and non-essential shops will have to close.

England’s chief medical officer said “economically and socially destructive” lockdowns are the only practical option to stem the spread of Covid-19.

Prof Chris Whitty said that would remain the case until a vaccine and better drugs become available.

A number of Conservative MPs have criticised the nationwide lockdown.

However, Labour’s support for the new measures mean they are highly likely to be approved even if there is a rebellion from Tory backbenchers.

Labour first called for a short lockdown or “circuit-breaker” in England last month and have criticised the government for not acting quickly or decisively enough.

BBC political correspondent Iain Watson said that Labour’s support will be enough to deter some Tories who have criticised the measures from rebelling, because they would see it as a “senseless sacrifice”.

“A relatively small number, however, will still vote against their own government,” our correspondent said.

The BBC has been told that former chief whip Mark Harper, who has openly criticised NHS Track and Trace, is expected to be among them.

A very senior Tory privately described the handling of the pandemic as a farce.

Others have been pushing for an economic assessment of the lockdown to be published, and several MPs questioned the data informing the government’s decisions.

‘Losing the plot’

Among the Conservative MPs to criticise the nationwide lockdown during a parliamentary debate on Tuesday was Richard Drax, who said the lockdowns were “destructive, divisive, and don’t work”.

“They simply delay the inevitable – the re-emergence of the virus when lockdown ends, as has been shown,” he said.

“Have we over-reacted? Yes, I think we have. A draconian, onerous and invasive set of rules and regulations now govern our very existence.”

His colleague Bob Seeley said lockdowns were a “dubious tool” and claimed scientists were becoming “increasingly sceptical” of them as an option.

He suggested the government was “losing the plot” in the face of the spread of the virus, and there was a need for “some semblance of balance” in its response.

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More details of England’s lockdown have also been revealed this week, with the publication of the legislation that will bring them into force.

The regulations specify fines starting at £100 for rule breakers, potentially rising to a maximum of £6,400 for repeat offences.

The published regulations also reveal:

  • There will be an exemption allowing veterans to participate in Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day events
  • People will also be allowed to visit friends or “close family members” in prison
  • Visits to friends or “close family members” who are near to death will also be allowed
  • There will be a 10pm curfew on restaurants to make takeaway deliveries

The new rules replace a tiered system of different local restrictions across England, which ministers say they want to return to after the country-wide lockdown is due to end on 2 December.

The UK recorded a further 397 coronavirus deaths and 20,018 confirmed cases on Tuesday.

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