Conservative MPs estimate that between 20 and 25 backbenchers could rebel or abstain in tomorrow’s Commons division to approve the four-week lockdown that the Prime Minister said was essential to save the NHS from being overwhelmed.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon added another challenge for Mr Johnson by demanding clarity over his apparent promise to let Scotland continue the furlough scheme after December 2.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick appeared to row back this morning, telling Sky News that Chancellor Rishi Sunak will review whether to extend the scheme, which pays 80 per cent of wages. “We need clarity on this urgently today,” tweeted Ms Sturgeon. “Woolly words don’t pay people’s wages.”
Professor Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford, today said he believed slides shown at the press conference on Saturday suggesting deaths could reach 4,000 a day without further action were wrong.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the slides should not have been shown “because mathematically it is now proven to be incorrect , particularly the 4,000 estimate of deaths that would occur in December.” He said the same data set had forecast 1,000 deaths by November 1, whereas “only 200 actually occurred”.
Professor Heneghan said R value in Liverpool was already “well below one at this moment in time”, suggesting that the three-tier system of local lockdowns had been working.
Steve Baker, the former Conservative minister who chairs the Lockdown Sceptics group of Tory MPs, told the Standard: “Professor Heneghan has highlighted the essential difficulties we face.
“In particular, though we keep being shown those terrifying death projections, even those briefing us admit they are out of date, rarely right and not the main factor in the decision. The main factor is admissions and the potential overwhelming of the NHS.” He added: “This remains an extremely difficult decision.”
Sir Mike Penning, the MP for Hemel Hempstead and a supporter of the PM, said he would vote against the lockdown as he had promised local people in July he would not support another. “It destroys jobs and communities,” he said.
Romford MP Andrew Rosindell said: “I do not believe continuous lockdowns will solve anything. I fear we will regret the day we responded to this situation by closing down the country in this way.”
Mr Jenrick said national lockdown for England was being implemented “with a very heavy heart”. He said it was the Government’s “hope and expectation” that the lockdown will end on December 2. “We didn’t want to be doing these measures, we wanted to continue the proportionate, regionalised approach for as long as possible, but the evidence at the end of last week was very stark with respect to NHS capacity in particular, that we would see hospitals being overwhelmed within a couple of weeks,” he told BBC Breakfast.
The number of people dying with Covid in the UK increased by 48 per cent in the past week to 1,126, the Office for National Statistics said today. This was an increase of 365 deaths on the 761 registered the previous week.
The number of Covid deaths in London increased by four to 47. The five regions in the North and Midlands, and Wales, all had far more deaths than the capital. There were 41 deaths in the South-East and 30 in the South-West.