Saturday, 28 Nov 2020

Boris Johnson warns there is 'no alternative' to second lockdown

Boris Johnson has warned Tory rebels contesting a second national lockdown in England there is ‘no alternative but to take further action’.

Speaking in the Commons this afternoon, the PM claimed coronavirus deaths over the winter could be twice as high as during the first wave of the pandemic.

Outlining plans for a second national lockdown, he said the Government has been forced to impose four weeks of tough restrictions to control soaring cases across the country.

‘Models from our scientists suggest that unless we act now, we could see deaths over the winter that are twice as bad or more compared with the first wave,’ he said.

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‘Faced with these latest figures, there is no alternative but to take further action at a national level.

‘I know some in the House believe we should have reached this decision earlier, but I believe it was right to try every possible option to get this virus under control at a local level, with strong local action and strong local leadership.’

Mr Johnson thanked people for their efforts in containing the virus so far, but said the R rate is still ‘too high’ as it remains above 1.

He also warned ‘the virus is doubling faster’ than the country can conceivably add capacity to NHS hospitals, adding he is ‘truly sorry’ for the ‘anguish’ a second lockdown will cause.

The PM was forced to announce the second lockdown, which comes into effect on Thursday, at a hastily arranged press conference in Downing Street on Saturday after details were leaked to the press the previous evening.

The measures will see pubs, bars, restaurants and non-essential retail closed for four weeks, but schools, colleges, universities and nurseries will remain open.

People will not be allowed to mix indoors with households apart from their own, but will be allowed to exercise and socialise in outdoor public spaces with their household or one other person.

The furlough scheme will also be extended throughout the second lockdown.

‘Let me spell out the medical and moral disaster we face. If we allow our health system to be overwhelmed, exactly as the data now suggests, then that would not only be a disaster for thousands of Covid patients, because their survival rates would fall, we would also reach a point where the NHS was no longer there for everyone,’ The PM added.

‘The sick would be turned away because there was no room in our hospitals. That sacred principle of care for anyone who needs it, whoever they are and wherever, whenever they need it, could be broken for the first time in our lives.

‘Doctors and nurses could be forced to choose which patients to treat, who would live and who would die. And this existential threat to our NHS comes not from focusing too much on coronavirus, but from not focusing enough.

‘If we fail to get coronavirus under control, it is the sheer weight of demand from Covid patients that would deprive others of the care they need. Cancer treatment, heart surgery, other life-saving procedures, all this could be put at risk if we do not get the virus under control.’

It comes after senior Cabinet minister Michael Gove admitted yesterday that the lockdown could be extended past December 2 if the infection rate does not drop enough.

But Mr Johnson said a tiered system will be returned to by December, with the three alert levels as before.

A Number 10 source insisted the measures would be ‘time-limited’ for four weeks.

MPs will debate and vote on the new measures on Wednesday, with several Conservatives likely to rebel against the Government.

Tory ex-minister Sir Desmond Swayne said it would take a ‘huge amount of persuasion for me to vote for this disastrous course of action’.

Former Cabinet minister Esther McVey said she would vote against them because the ‘”lockdown cure” is causing more harm than Covid’.

And 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady said: ‘If these kinds of measures were being taken in any totalitarian country around the world we would be denouncing it as a form of evil.’

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said his party will vote in favour of the restrictions, but he criticised the Government for not introducing the measures sooner.

‘The lockdown now will be longer, it’ll be harder, we’ve just missed half-term and there’s a very human cost to this,’ he added.

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