Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday said the UK is at a “critical moment” in its fight to control the spread of coronavirus, as a further 71 deaths took the country’s death toll from the deadly virus to 42,143.
Addressing a briefing from 10 Downing Street in London, Johnson 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,” he said, adding that the UK will “get through this”.
He was joined by his scientific and medical experts who reiterated that the coronavirus cases were “heading in the wrong direction”.
Johnson’s 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.
UK 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 comes amid growing disquiet within Johnson’s own Conservative Party over some of the tough and hard to interpret 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.