MPs have overwhelmingly backed the latest lockdown measures as the UK Covid death rate reached levels not seen since the spring peak.
With Labour supporting the lockdown, the vote in the recalled House of Commons passed comfortably by 524 votes to 16, giving the Government a majority of 508.
Boris Johnson, however, did face rebellion within his ranks, with 12 Conservative MPs voting against the stay-at-home rules. They were joined by four DUP MPs opposing the regulations.
Former Tory minister Sir Desmond Swayne branded lockdowns a “complete failure” while Sir Robert Syms said the measures, which are in place until March 31, were “essentially a blank cheque for three months to Public Health England to do what they wish”.
The Prime Minister, addressing the Commons earlier on Wednesday, said the March deadline was “not because we expect the full national lockdown to continue until then but to allow a steady, controlled and evidence-led move down through the tiers on a regional basis”.
He added: “Our emergence from the lockdown cocoon will not be a big bang but a gradual unwrapping.”
In the face of pressure from senior Tories to commit to easing the restrictions – which came into force on Wednesday and were being voted on retrospectively by MPs – as soon as possible, Mr Johnson said there would be “substantial opportunities” for relaxation before March.
Mark Harper, ex-Tory chief whip and chairman of the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group, said the lockdown restrictions should be reviewed “in the middle of February” once the most vulnerable had been vaccinated, as per the Government’s aim.
The result came as the Government said a further 1,041 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Wednesday – the highest daily reported total since April 21.
The figures continue to be affected by a lag in the publication of recent data and contain some deaths that took place over the Christmas and New Year period that have only just been reported.
Of the 1,041 new deaths, around a third took place before January 1, while some 100 took place in the seven days up to Christmas Day.
The number of Covid-19 patients in hospital in England has, meanwhile, reached a record 27,727 as of 8am on January 6, according to the latest figures from NHS England. The figure is up 22% on a week ago.
After the latest mortality figures were released, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said ministers had to shoulder some of the blame.
“This is a tragedy. It’s not bad luck. It was not inevitable,” he tweeted.
“The Government has been too slow to react. We now need a national effort to get our country vaccinated.”
Published: by Radio NewsHub