A HUGE Tory rebellion is on the cards tonight when parliament votes on bringing in the new tiered ‘stealth lockdown’.
As many as 100 Conservative MPs could vote against the controversial plans, although Boris Johnson’s comfortable majority in the Commons means the new restrictions are still almost certain to pass.
He won’t have Opposition support masking the scale of the rebellion, however, as Labour leader Keir Starmer ordered his party to abstain from the vote as the new rules failed to sufficiently support businesses.
Many Tory MPs were livid when ministers finally released the impact assessment that led to them plunging 99% of the UK into draconian tier 2 and tier 3 lockdown tiers tomorrow, as it contained no new information.
Chief Tory rebel Mark Harper said the “wheels are coming off” the policy as a result of the Government’s failure to properly justify the new tier system.
Although the national lockdown is formally lifted tomorrow, 99% of the population will still find themselves living under harsh lockdown-style conditions in tiers 2 and 3.
Follow our coronavirus live blog below for the very latest news, reaction and updates on the lockdown plans…
DEATH TOLL – LATEST
A total of 2,697 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending November 20 mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
This is the highest number of deaths involving Covid-19 since the week ending May 15.
It is also up from 2,466 deaths in the week to November 13 – a jump of 9%.
Just over a fifth (21.5%) of all deaths registered in England and Wales in the week to November 20 mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate.
PUB PASSPORTS ‘NOT COMPULSORY’
Vaccine passports will not be forced on Brits across the UK to let them go to the pub, Michael Gove said this morning.
The Cabinet Office minister slapped down suggestions from the vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi that restaurants, cinemas and other venues could be asked to check if their customers have had the Covid jab.
But Mr Gove said businesses could decide to enforce a Covid immunity passport.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, he said: “It’s up to any individual pub owner or licensee to decide who they will admit, and on what basis. They’re private businesses.”
LATEST – DEBENHAMS POISED TO CLOSE 124 SHOPS
Debenhams is set to close all 124 shops permanently and disappear from the high street as rescue talks fail.
It comes after JD Sports today pulled out of rescue talks (see earlier post) for the troubled department store chain, putting 12,000 workers at risk.
The 242-year-old retailer had been considering a potential sale since the summer after it went into administration in April for the second time in a year.
The shopping giant has already cut 6,500 jobs since May.
NINE OUT OF 10 HOSPITAL BEDS ‘OCCUPIED’ – GOVE
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove told the BBC: “Data shows the average bed capacity in the NHS, in England, in the week ending November 15 was 88% – that’s almost nine in 10 beds being occupied.”
He insisted that new restrictions are necessary to protect the NHS from a surge in Covid cases, saying: “It is sad that we have to point this out, but you can look at Wales…
“In Wales they did have a two-week set of restrictions, then they lifted those restrictions in quite a blanket way.
“As result we have seen a resurgence in the infection and the Welsh Government have had to slam the brakes on again.”
12,000 DEBENHAMS JOBS AT RISK
JD Sports has pulled out of rescue talks for troubled department store chain Debenhams, putting 12,000 workers at risk.
It was the last remaining bidder for Debenhams, which has been in administration since April.
In a brief statement to the London Stock Exchange, the company said: “JD Sports Fashion, the leading retailer of sports, fashion and outdoor brands, confirms that discussions with the administrators of Debenhams regarding a potential acquisition of the UK business have now been terminated.”
Debenhams has already cut 6,500 jobs across its operation due to heavy cost-cutting after it entered administration for the second time in 12 months.
It is understood that the collapse of the deal is partly linked to the administration of Arcadia, which is the biggest operator of concessions in Debenhams stores.
MERCEDES WISH HAMILTON ‘SWIFT RECOVERY’
The statement from the Mercedes F1 team read: “The Mercedes-AMG Petronas Team regrets to announce that Lewis Hamilton has tested positive for COVID-19 and will be unable to take part in this weekend’s Sakhir GP.
“Lewis was tested three times last week and returned a negative result each time, the last of which was on Sunday afternoon at the Bahrain International Circuit as part of the standard race weekend testing programme.
“However, he woke up on Monday morning with mild symptoms and was informed at the same time that a contact prior to arrival Bahrain had subsequently tested positive.
“Lewis therefore took a further test and returned a positive result. This has since been confirmed by a retest. Lewis is now isolating in accordance with COVID-19 protocols and public health authority guidelines.
“Apart from mild symptoms, he is otherwise fit and well, and the entire team sends him our very best wishes for a swift recovery.”
SCOTCH EGG IS ‘STARTER’ – GOVE
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said he considered a scotch egg to be a starter, after Environment Secretary George Eustice said the snack would constitute a “substantial meal”.
In areas in Tier 2 of the new restrictions to be enforced in England from Wednesday, alcohol will only be served with food at pubs.
Asked whether a scotch egg is a substantial meal, Mr Gove told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “As far as I’m concerned it’s probably a starter.
“But the broader, more serious point I think we need to establish is there are reasonable rules about hospitality which are there to keep us all safe.”
TIER CONTROLS ‘NECESSARY’ – GOVE
Michael Gove said the new toughened system of tiered coronavirus controls for England are necessary, despite the Prime Minister facing a Tory rebellion over the plans.
The Cabinet Office Minister told BBC Breakfast: “There are some, and I sympathise with them, who say that the current tiering system is too strict, too rigorous.
“I don’t think so, I think that it’s necessary to keep the infection rate down, to reduce it wherever possible, precisely so people can be together at Christmas.
“It’s a balance and it’s not an easy one, but while these restrictions on our freedoms are painful, they go against the grain for me, they’re there to try and make sure that we don’t have our NHS overwhelmed.”
VIRUS WAS ‘OUT OF CONTROL’ IN WALES – GOVE
Michael Gove said the Welsh Government lifted restrictions “too expansively” and that he was confident there will not be another lockdown in England.
Wales is bringing in further national restrictions from Friday night after a steady rise in infection rates since a 17-day “firebreak” ended on November 9.
The Cabinet Office Minister told BBC Breakfast: “I’ve got enormous sympathy with the difficulties that the Welsh Government are wrestling with.
“But it looks, with the benefit of hindsight, as though immediately after their two-week lockdown they lifted restrictions too expansively.
“As a result of doing that the virus once more got out of control, so they’ve had to slam the brakes on again.
That’s one of the reasons why we’re exiting the lockdown cautiously (in England).”
LEWIS HAMILTON TESTS POSITIVE FOR COVID
F1 ace Lewis Hamilton will miss the Sakhir Grand Prix after testing positive for coronavirus
Mercedes confirmed the 35-year-old has ‘mild symptoms’ and will now self-isolate.
The Brit superstar was tested three times last week including on Sunday afternoon at the Bahrain International Circuit.
Despite returning three negative tests, Hamilton woke up Monday morning with minor symptoms of Covid-19.
A statement from Mercedes read: “The Mercedes-AMG Petronas Team regrets to announce that Lewis Hamilton has tested positive for COVID-19 and will be unable to take part in this weekend’s Sakhir GP.”
PIERS MORGAN SLAMS RITA ORA
Piers Morgan has slammed Rita Ora’s apology, insisting that she is “only sorry she got caught” after the singer flouted lockdown rules to throw a 30th birthday party with a group of friends at a Notting Hill restaurant.
The Good Morning Britain presenter also asked: “What does her mum think about this?” as he pointed out that the star had previously shared her pride in the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic after her doctor mother had returned to the frontline.
Speaking on today’s instalment of the ITV breakfast show, 55-year-old Piers seethed: “This Rita Ora thing annoyed me because suddenly she’s ‘deeply sorry’ and volunteered to pay the £10,000 fine – which will barely touch the sides of her pocket money.
“What is she ‘deeply sorry’ about? She knew what she was doing, we are in a national lockdown – it’s not a secret!
“She’s a very rich pop star and she deliberately planned a 30th birthday party – I don’t know what the restaurant was thinking, so how are you able to do that? And why were you doing that?”
100 TORY MPS THREATEN TO VOTE AGAINST TIER SYSTEM
Boris Johnson is battling the biggest Tory rebellion of his premiership after a ‘cut and paste’ impact report on the Tiers system failed to quell a revolt.
A hundred Tory MPs are threatening to vote down the ‘draconian’ new rules later today – with Labour piling the pressure on the PM by abstaining.
Furious MPs blasted the tough new Tiers system again yesterday – as the Government admitted they have no idea about the huge economic hit it would have.
Mr Johnson is now facing his biggest Tory revolt since he became PM with at least 75 demanding changes to the system.
Labour will lay bare Tory divisions by abstaining in tonight’s crunch votes on the new regional system.
BRITS GIVEN VOUCHERS AS REWARD FOR GETTING TESTED
Brits will be handed shopping vouchers and could be offered the chance to meet with family by getting tested for Covid in areas with high infections.
Councils in Tier 3 would be paid £14 for each test to encourage mass coronavirus screening for millions of people.
They could lure people to come forward and get tested with “discount schemes with local businesses”, a new government document says.
The government wants to conduct up to two million tests a day by the end of the year.
Online travel agent LastMinute is paying back £7million to customers who has holidays cancelled amid the coronavirus crisis.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has been investigating the firm after receiving hundreds of complaints from holidaymakers about cancellation refunds.
More than 9,000 customers whose holidays were cancelled by the website are currently waiting for refunds worth more than £7million.
Daily coronavirus cases are down by a third in a week as England enters a new Tier system on Wednesday.
Yesterday 12,330 infections were recorded in the past 24 hours with 205 Covid related deaths.
The death toll from yesterday was a slight decrease from the Sunday’s tally of 215.
From Wednesday all of England will again be divided into a three-tier system designed to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Almost all of the country will be plunged into tougher Tier 2 and 3 rules.
The Health Secretary stressed the tougher Tiers were essential – and only three areas, Cornwall, the Isle of Wight and the Isle of Scilly, will be in the lowest Tier.
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