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Saturday, Jan 16, 2021

Boris Johnson Defends Tiered Lockdown Following Tory Backlash

Boris Johnson Defends Tiered Lockdown Following Tory Backlash

The prime minister might need to rely on Labour votes to get the new rules approved.
Boris Johnson has said he understands people are “frustrated” at being placed in new strict coronavirus lockdown tiers, following a significant backlash from Tory MPs.

Defending the new tiered system that will come into force from December 2, the prime minister said it would bring “simplicity and clarity” and was needed to suppress the virus.

Such is the opposition on the Conservative benches, the prime minister might have to rely on Labour votes to get the measures approved when they are voted on in parliament next week.

Senior MPs William Wragg, Tobias Ellwood and Sir Robert Syms were among those who have signalled they will vote against the plan.

Almost 99% of the English population will be placed into the two highest tiers.

More than 23m (41.48%) people will be under tier 3 restrictions, with more than 32m (57.25%) in tier 2, which has been made more stringent during the current lockdown.

Cornwall was the only place on the English mainland to fall under tier 1, joined by the Isle of Wight and the Isles of Scilly, with the three areas covering just 713,573 people – or 1.27% of the population.

Shadow health minister Justin Madders said Labour would wait to see the detailed regulations before deciding which way to vote.

He suggested the government could be forced to make concessions on some of the tiering decisions if it was to get through.

“I think that that’s part of the debate we’re going to have about making sure that the public has got confidence that this is the right thing to do,” he told Times Radio.

Speaking at a Public Health England laboratory on Friday, Johnson said: “We’ve got to get the virus down.

“I know it is frustrating for people when they are in a high-tier area when there is very little incidence in their village or their area.

“I totally understand why people feel frustrated.

“The difficulty is that if you did it any other way, first of all you’d divide the country up into loads and loads of very complicated sub-divisions – there has got to be some simplicity and clarity in the way we do this.

“The second problem is that, alas, our experience is that when a high-incidence area is quite close to a low-incidence area, unless you beat the problem in the high-incidence area, the low-incidence area I’m afraid starts to catch up.”

The government will review which regions are in which tiers on December 16, and Johnson said there “really is the prospect’ of areas being able to “move down the tiering scale”.

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