BORIS JOHNSON has said the UK is at a “critical moment” in its battle against the pandemic, as a further 71 deaths took the country’s death toll from the deadly virus to 42,143 on Wednesday (30).
Addressing a 10 Downing Street news briefing, the prime minister struck a sombre note as he called for “collective forbearance, common sense and willingness to make sacrifices” in order to avert another nationwide lockdown, even as he warned that he would not hesitate to impose further restrictions if needed.
His warning of a high number of infections and “tragic increase” in deaths came as this week marked the biggest rise in daily cases since the pandemic began, with a further 7,108 infections recorded on Wednesday and the number of patients with Covid-19 on ventilators hitting 312.
“These figures show why our plan is so essential. We have to stick to it together, and we should stick to it with confidence,” said Johnson.
“I know some people think we should give up and let the virus take its course despite the huge loss of life that may entail. I profoundly disagree. I don’t think the British people want to throw in the sponge, they want to fight and defeat this virus.”
The UK’s top health scientists, too, joined the prime minister in cautioning that the coronavirus was out of control despite a slew of new restrictions.
“Things are definitely heading in the wrong direction,” noted the UK’s chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance.
“We don’t have this under control at the moment.”
England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, added: “We are pointing out that the direction of travel for both hospitals and intensive care is going in the wrong direction, particularly in these areas that have seen rapid increases in cases.
“We have got a long winter ahead of us.”
The briefing came as the House of Commons passed by 330 votes to 24 an extension to the Coronavirus Act, the emergency legislation which needs parliamentary approval every six months.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock pledged to the members of the Parliament that they would be given votes “wherever possible” on any new coronavirus rules before they come into force in future.
The assurance came amid growing disquiet within the Conservative Party over some of the tough and complex localised lockdown measures being imposed in large parts of the country.
In a rare intervention, Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle delivered a harsh rebuke on the government for its failure to seek parliamentary approval for these measures.
“The way in which the government has exercised its powers to make secondary legislation during this crisis has been totally unsatisfactory,” he said.
Hoyle warned that he was “now looking to the government to rebuild trust with the House and not treat it with the contempt it has shown”.
As a result, any further tough lockdown moves are likely to be first tabled for a vote in Commons.
Critics noted this would not apply to localised measures, which were now thought to affect some 16 million people, many of them in the north of England.
Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said that if the restrictions continued, and without further support for business, the whole region would suffer.
“If you look back in years to come you’ll think Covid-19 did more harm to the north of England than Margaret Thatcher and whatever she did in the 1980s,” he said.
The former Conservative prime minister had been accused of wiping out Britain’s industrial base with her free-market reforms, although supporters say she revived the wider economy.