LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out new measures on Monday to replace a COVID-19 lockdown in England from Dec. 2, reinforcing a previous regional approach to try to reopen businesses where infection rates are lower.
Just over two weeks after Johnson introduced a national lockdown for England to try to tame a spiralling increase in new coronavirus cases, he said the measures had reduced COVID infection rates and would be eased on Dec. 2 as promised.
Johnson has also been under pressure to scrap the lockdown from lawmakers in his Conservative Party, where many have threatened to vote against any new restrictions they consider overly damaging to the economy without more evidence of their effect in stemming infections.
” We are going to go back … to a regional, tiered approach,” he told parliament virtually from home where he is self-isolating.
Trying to ease the concerns among sceptics within his party, he said the measures would run until the end of March.
“This will be still a hard winter, Christmas cannot be normal and there is a long road to spring. But we have turned a corner and the escape route is in sight,” he said.
“We must hold out against the virus until testing and vaccines come to our rescue and reduce the need for restrictions.”
After his statement, as he was answering questions from lawmakers, his video-conference connection failed and health minister Matt Hancock had to take over.
But the message to his own party was clear: an appeal to vote in favour of the new measures next week to make sure hospitals can cope during winter, when demand increases.
Some are bound to criticise ‘Tier 3’ (very high alert) restrictions, which mean that bars, cafes and restaurants must remain shut except for takeaway services, and that households cannot mix except in public places outdoors.
(Reporting by Kate Holton, Elizabeth Piper, Editing by Alistair Smout and Kevin Liffey)