The public has once again been told it must stay at home and not leave the house as a new wave of coronavirus sweeps across the country. As many as every one in 50 people now have the virus in England, with the shocking statistic rising to one in 30 in London.
Boris Johnson urgently announced the strict lockdown measures on Monday night, with the stay at home order becoming law at one minute past midnight tonight.
Voting retrospectively on the lockdown MPs backed the Prime Minister’s actions by 524 to 16.
When the controversial 3 Tier system was introduced in England in December, the Prime Minister suffered his biggest backbench rebellion to date, with 55 Tories voting against the plan.
Tonight there was no repeat of the fallout seen last month with very few Conservatives rejecting the lockdown.
Making his case for the lockdown in the House of Commons this morning, the Prime Minister said: “The tiers, that the House agreed last month, was working with the old variant, but alas this mutation – spreading with frightening ease and speed in spite of the sterling work of the British public – this mutation has led to more cases than we’ve seen ever before.
“Numbers that alas cannot be explained away by the meteoric rise in testing.
“When the ONS reports that more than two percent of the population is now infected and when the number of patients in hospitals in England is now 40 percent higher than the first peak in April it is inescapable that the facts are changing and we must change our response.
“And so we have no choice but to return to a national lockdown in England with similar measures being adopted by the devolved administrations, so we can control this new variant until we can take the most likely victims out of its path with vaccines.”
The legislation passed in the Commons today means restrictions can remain in place until March 31, but the Prime Minister was eager to state he hoped the rules could be relaxed from the middle of next month.
He said: “Our emergence from the lockdown cocoon will not be a big bang but a gradual unwrapping.
The Labour Party also voted in favour of the measures after abstaining on the vote on the tier system.
However, Sir Keir Starmer used his response to the Prime Minister in the Commons to criticise the Government’s handling of the pandemic.
“The virus is out of control, over a million people in England now have Covid, the number of hospital admissions is rising, tragically so are the numbers of people dying,” he said.
But he added, “this is not just bad luck, it’s not inevitable, it follows a pattern” of the Government being slow to respond.
The Covid Recovery Group (CRG) of lockdown-sceptic Tory backbenchers endorsed the lockdown saying the rapid spread of the virus meant the Prime Minister had to take action.
However, former chief whip Mark Harper, CRG chair, used a Telegraph article today to call for a “substantial relaxation” of restrictions as soon as the four top priority groups have been vaccinated.
Fellow CRG member Steve Baker said: “Once the most vulnerable have been vaccinated, draconian restrictions must be substantially removed.”
There were a few Tory MPs who voted against the Government, with former minister Sir Desmond Swayne branding lockdowns a “complete failure”.
Sir Robert Syms said the measures were “essentially a blank cheque for three months to Public Health England to do what they wish”.