Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned Conservative MPs threatening to rebel against new coronavirus restrictions that backing them is key in avoiding a third national lockdown.
His plea came as Boris Johnson said on Monday it would be wrong to “take our foot off the throat of the beast” now, with up to 100 Tories unhappy about the tiered approach for England.
The Prime Minister acknowledged that “lots of people think that they are in the wrong tier” but insisted the measures set to come into force on Wednesday are needed to slow the spread of Covid-19.
The warnings came as the Government acknowledged in its impact assessment that the new controls will have a “significant” impact on the economy but said that allowing the disease to run unchecked would be “much worse” for public health.
A failure to maintain strong controls would lead to the NHS being overwhelmed and result in an “intolerable” loss of life, the analysis published ahead of a crunch Commons vote on the restrictions on Tuesday added.
Mr Hancock said that “we’ve got this virus back under control” thanks to the lockdown but that “while we can let up a little, we can’t afford to let up a lot”.
And the Cabinet minister directly appealed to Tory backbenchers who may oppose the restrictions during a Downing Street press conference.
Asked if Conservatives thinking of rebelling are acting irresponsibly, he said: “I would urge all MPs right across the House to vote for the tiered system.
“The tiered system has a lower set of restrictions than the national lockdown in all three tiers.
“Unfortunately though, we do have to have the higher tier restrictions, and in particular Tier 3 restrictions, in place so that we can have confidence that we can keep getting this virus down, and then keep it under control right across the country.
Find out which tier in England your area will be in from 2 December by using the postcode checker ⬇️
— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) November 28, 2020
“And that way, it is the best way to avoid a third lockdown. And it is the most proportionate way to take the action that we need to keep people safe, and to stop the NHS being overwhelmed.”