Boris Johnson faced an immediate Tory backlash today after he unveiled his new coronavirus crackdown as Conservative MPs hit out over freedoms being taken away.
Mr Johnson imposed a 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants, told workers to return to working from home where they are able to and extended rules on the mandatory wearing of face masks.
The Prime Minister said the measures are needed in order to stop the spread of the disease as he warned they could be in place for six months.
But Tory MPs criticised the plans this afternoon as they warned of the economic damage the measures could have and asked what Mr Johnson’s message is to ‘grandparents who want to live their lives before it’s too late and cannot see their families’.
The PM was also reminded that people ‘are only young once’ as he was told that ‘blanket restrictions are affecting all people of all ages, immaterial of the actual risk posed to them’.
Conservative MPs also said their constituents would be furious at the new crackdown after they followed the Government’s rules only to have seen ‘people at protests, at street parties, not having action taken against them’.
They also warned the decision to ditch the back to work drive will cause widespread ‘dismay’ among workers who live in ‘cramped, overcrowded accommodation’.
Boris Johnson today faced a grilling from Tory MPs over his latest proposals to stop the spread of coronavirus
‘Six months’ of curbs at a glance
- All pubs, bars and restaurants in England will be subject to a 10pm curfew from Thursday, with the PM adamant that premises must kick out all of their customers by the cut off point.
- The Hospitality sector will also be restricted to table service only as the Government outlawed drinkers making a trip to the bar.
- All retail workers and customers in indoor hospitality settings will be required to wear masks – except when they are seated to eat or drink.
- All workers who can work from home are now being encouraged to do so from tomorrow.
- Fines for breaking the rule of six and for failing to wear a face covering are increasing to £200 for a first offence.
- The police will now have the option of asking the military for support with soldiers potentially being drafted in to fulfil office roles and guard protected sites in order to allow officers more time to crackdown on rule-breakers.
- The number of people allowed to attend weddings in England is being slashed to 15 from Monday but the number of people allowed to attend a funeral will remain at 30.
- Plans for the partial return of sports fans to stadiums on October 1 has been paused.
- Rule of six exemptions are being tightened to ban indoor team sports like five-a-side-football matches.
Mr Johnson faced an hour long grilling by MPs in the House of Commons this afternoon after he set out his proposals.
Mel Stride, the Tory chairman of the Commons Treasury Select Committee, told the PM that lockdowns ‘destroy jobs and also personal wellbeing’ as he urged the Government to pay attention to the concerns of businesses.
He said: ‘And the fact the lockdowns have damaged our national economy means that in the years ahead a smaller economy will probably have serious impacts on the health of millions of people up and down our country.’
He added: ‘Yes, we should listen very carefully to the epidemiologists but we must also listen very carefully to the Treasury, to businesses and to economists too.’
Mr Johnson said Mr Stride was ‘spot on’ and ‘that’s why we have to take action now to avoid the risk of having to take more drastic action later on that would do greater economic damage’.
Tory Dame Cheryl Gillan referred to the PM’s suggestion that the measures could be in place for six months as she asked: ‘What does he say to grandparents who want to live their lives before it’s too late and cannot see their families, to worried parents and families who cannot access a test at the moment, to workers and business owners facing financial ruin and to MPs that want to debate these matters in Parliament before they are decided, not after so they can help him shoulder this onerous responsibility?
‘How can he convince all of them that he’s taking the right path and unite our country with hope of an end to this misery?’
Mr Johnson replied: ‘I thank (Dame Cheryl) and she is entirely right that Parliament should and will debate these issues and Mr Speaker will make time next week, in Government time, for a very full debate on these measures.’
Conservative former minister Andrew Percy told Mr Johnson: ‘I must express to him the concern of constituents in my area where our seven-day rolling average is well below 20 and falling, where people have followed the rules and seen people at protests, at street parties, not having action taken against them and we will now suffer as a result of these further measures.’
Mr Johnson said the majority do feel ‘let down by the minority who are not obeying the rules’ and that is why the Government is toughening up enforcement measures and increasing fines to £200.
Conservative former cabinet minister Stephen Crabb raised the issue of working from home.
He said: ‘While working from home has been great for many – for senior managers living in larger properties with nice gardens – that hasn’t been the experience for a great many others living in cramped, overcrowded accommodation.
‘So does (Mr Johnson) recognise that there will be dismay today amongst those people for whom the return to Covid-secure workplaces has been so important for mental, physical, social wellbeing and it feels like it’ll be a long six months for them having to work back in their own homes?’
Mr Johnson replied: ‘Where people must go into work for their job, for their mental health, wellbeing or whatever it happens to be, then of course they should do so.
‘What we’re saying is you should work from home if you can.’
Tory Nick Fletcher said ‘blanket restrictions are affecting all people of all ages, immaterial of the actual risk posed to them’ as he suggested people should be able to carry out a ‘personal Covid risk assessment’.
He said the results could be used to determine whether ‘someone needs to shield or can go about their daily lives’.
He added: ‘This will help boost the economy while protecting the vulnerable. After all, many people’s lives are being affected tremendously by these restrictions, especially the young, who as we all know – are only young once.’
But Mr Johnson told Mr Fletcher the ‘tragedy of the coronavirus pandemic is that people who are not badly affected themselves can nonetheless pass it on unwittingly to older or more vulnerable people’.
‘So your harmless cough can be someone else’s death knell unfortunately, and that is why we have to apply the restrictions that we do,’ he said.