LONDON (Reuters) – British lawmakers approved a month-long lockdown in England, voting on Wednesday in favour of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan to try to prevent COVID-19 running out of control and overwhelming health services.
People will be ordered to stay at home from 0001 GMT on Thursday to combat a surge in new infections that could, if unchecked, cause more deaths than a first wave which forced a three-month lockdown earlier this year.
The 516-38 vote had been in little doubt after the opposition Labour Party said they would support the move, even though they criticised Johnson for acting too slowly. He was also criticised by some in his own party who said a national lockdown was too severe.
“None of us came into politics to tell people once again to shutter their shops, to furlough their staff or stay away from their friends and family,” Johnson told parliament in an attempt to calm rebels within his Conservative Party.
The United Kingdom, which has the biggest official death toll in Europe from COVID-19, is grappling with more than 20,000 new coronavirus cases a day and scientists have warned the “worst case” scenario of 80,000 dead could be exceeded.
Those warnings forced Johnson to announce a U-turn on Saturday, having previously insisted on an approach of regional lockdowns.
Labour leader Keir Starmer said: “While these regulations are not in any way desirable or perfect, they are now necessary because the government has lost control of the virus.”
Some in Johnson’s own party, however, voted against the plan.
“I have a fundamental problem with much of what we’re being asked to do here – as well as the economic impact, the human toll which this will have,” said Graham Brady, head of an influential Conservative committee.
(Editing by Elizabeth Piper and Stephen Addison)