The new coronavirus restrictions, announced by the Prime Minister in a televised press conference at the weekend, will be put to a vote in Parliament on Wednesday, but a growing number of senior MPs on the Conservative backbenches have indicated they will vote against them. Any Tory rebellion is likely to be only symbolic, with Labour poised to back the Government on the measures. But BBC Newsnight political editor Nicholas Watt explained how the revolt could still “seriously” damage the Prime Minister.
He said: “There will be a rebellion when MPs vote on this on Wednesday, but there is strong confidence in Government circles that they will be able to keep those rebels down below 20.
“Sixteen, 17, 18 rebels is the figure that is assumed at the moment.
“The crucial thing about that is that would mean that Boris Johnson would win this vote with the support of Conservative MPs.
“In other words, he wouldn’t have to rely on Labour votes.
“If he had to do that, that would seriously weaken him.”
Appearing in the Commons on Monday, Mr Johnson guaranteed “without a shred of doubt” the restrictions would expire on December 2, amid concerns from some Tories that England’s lockdown could be extended beyond that date.
He insisted technological advances will “defeat this virus by the spring” as he tried to ward off a rebellion over the stay-at-home order, which has seen the Prime Minister also come under pressure from business chiefs about the “truly devastating” measure.
He promised MPs a fresh vote on the next stage of measures to combat coronavirus, saying the intention is to return to a regional tiered system after this lockdown and announced greater support for the self-employed after extending the furlough scheme for employees as pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops are ordered to close.
Meanwhile, the Guardian reported the self-isolation period for people who test positive and their contacts could this week be cut to seven days.
Under current Government rules, people who test positive for the virus must isolate for 10 days while their contacts must isolate for 14 days.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Johnson said there would be a “big, big push” on the need for contacts to self-isolate, telling MPs “the proportion of people who are self-isolating in response to the urgings of NHS test, trace and isolate is not yet high enough”.
The Prime Minister, who will meet with his Cabinet on Tuesday morning, warned that “without action” there could be twice as many deaths over the winter as in the first wave, meaning there is “no alternative” but another national lockdown.
In a sobering message, he said COVID-19 presents an “existential threat” to the NHS, with doctors being forced to choose which patients to treat and “who would live and who would die”.
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Some experts have criticised scenarios, presented when the Government announced the new English lockdown, which estimate 4,000 deaths a day from coronavirus, saying that is based on out-of-date modelling, and suggesting numbers could actually be lower.
But Professor James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, said even the most optimistic models show around 500 daily deaths within two to three weeks as being a “best case” scenario, and warned that if further action was not taken this could rise above 1,000 daily deaths before Christmas.
Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty are due to face questions from MPs on Tuesday afternoon when they appear before the Science and Technology Committee.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has accused the Prime Minister of a “catastrophic failure of leadership” for rejecting a recommendation from scientists to impose a shorter “circuit-breaker” lockdown in September.