Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday defended his decision to put 99 percent of the English population under higher tiers of restrictions after the country emerges from a national lockdown.
The government published the list of local restriction tiers by area on Thursday. All local authorities in England—except the Isle of Wight, Cornwall, and the Isles of Scilly—are placed under Tier 2 and Tier 3. Most of the areas were in Tier 1 before the current four-week national lockdown started.
MPs and residents were up in arms when their areas were put under higher levels of restrictions despite having low numbers of cases.
Seven MPs from Kent on Wednesday tried without success to have the county divided by districts, Sky News reported.
“With some districts starting to show some of the highest infection rates in the country, we strongly believe that any local lockdown should be conducted on a borough or district level,” the MPs wrote in a letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
The whole of Kent has been placed in Tier 3.
Johnson said that he understood why people would feel frustrated, but there was no other way.
“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 subdivisions,” the PM said on Friday while visiting a laboratory for lateral flow CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus tests in Wiltshire.
“There’s got to be some simplicity and some clarity in the way that we do this,” he said.
“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,” Johnson added.
Johnson said the higher tiers of lockdowns are not the same as the national lockdown, with shops, gyms, and hairdressers reopening and communal worship is allowed again.
Housing, Communities, and Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick on Friday told BBC Breakfast that the government had learned from experience that it could be sometimes counterproductive to “hive out relatively small areas” because people travel for work, school, and shopping.
Dozens of Tory MPs have voiced their opposition to future lockdowns.
The 70-member strong Parliamentary COVID Recovery Group (CRG) wrote a letter to Johnson on Nov. 21, saying they could not support future lockdowns unless the Government can demonstrate that the restrictions will have an impact on slowing the transmission of the CCP virus, and will save more lives than they cost.
The MPs called for the government to “publish a full cost-benefit analysis of the proposed restrictions on a regional basis so that MPs can assess responsibly the non-COVID health impact of restrictions, as well as the undoubted impact on livelihoods.”
Senior Conservative Iain Duncan Smith said he did not think the allocations made sense.
“You have a document full of question marks. In other words, so much of this isn’t done by a clear criteria, it’s done by judgment,” Duncan Smith told talkRADIO.
“There are all sorts of examples of people, of areas with lower levels [of infections] going into Tier 3 than some who are in Tier 2. Other areas that were in Tier 3 in a seriously falling, I mean halving their infection rates on downwards, severe downward curve, are stuck in Tier 3 without any reward or any promise for that,” he added.
Duncan Smith said this gave people nothing to hope for, and businesses nothing to cling on to.
“We govern by consent, not by diktat or ordinance. … the public have to believe that what we’re asking them to do is rational, reasonable, and fair. And I have to say, I really can’t say that these are,” the former Tory leader said.
The new tiered system, as a part of Johnson’s COVID Winter Plan, will be voted on in Parliament on Monday, before it is due to take effect.
Jenrick told Kay Burley from Sky News that if Parliament votes against it, the measures won’t be implemented.
“We have a job to do to speak to and convince our parliamentary colleagues,” Jenrick said.
Labour’s Shadow Health Minister Justin Madders told Burley the party had not decided on whether to support the plan.
A protest against lockdowns is being organised for Saturday. The Metropolitan Police (Met) issued a statement on Friday, reminding people that protests are not allowed under CCP virus regulations.
“The Met is urgently reminding those looking to attend that protest is not currently a permitted exemption to the prohibition on gatherings under the current Coronavirus regulations,” the Met said.
The Met arrested 190 anti-lockdown protesters on Nov. 5 for breaches of CCP virus restrictions.