Coronavirus: Government paper offers no assessment of economic impact of restrictions on areas in different tiers

Boris Johnson is facing a substantial Tory revolt over his plans for new coronavirus restrictions, after a government assessment of their economic impact failed to win over sceptical backbenchers.

MPs in Westminster said the document – issued on the eve of Tuesday’s crunch vote – did not answer the demand of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) for a full cost-benefit analysis of the damage the three-tier system will do to businesses and jobs on a regional basis.

And there was anger over a suggestion from newly-appointed vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi that pubs, restaurants and other venues might in future demand proof of vaccination as a condition of access.

Rather than setting out the social, economic and health justification of allocating areas including Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and northeast to the toughest tier 3 band, the paper said it was impossible to make “meaningful” predictions of the impact of particular restrictions.

It acknowledged that controls have had “major impacts” on the economy, but said that the alternative of letting the disease grow exponentially would be “much worse for public health” and the prospect of the NHS being overwhelmed was “intolerable”.

More than two-fifths of England’s population is due to go into tier 3 when lockdown expires on Wednesday, with 57 per cent going into tier 2 and just over 1 per cent into the least stringent tier 1. The proposed arrangement has sparked fury among Tory backbenchers who say it will wreak havoc on jobs, particularly in the hospitality sector.

Despite expectations that 50 or more Tories may rebel, Mr Johnson was assured of winning Tuesday’s vote, after both Labour and Liberal Democrats announced they will abstain.

Sir Keir Starmer said his party was acting “in the national interest”, but a Downing Street spokesperson said the Labour leader was “offering no leadership at all”.

Speaking at a press conference in No 10, health secretary Matt Hancock said that the “light of dawn is on the horizon” after a sharp fall in coronavirus infections during lockdown.

In figures released on Monday, the government said a further 205 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19. There were a further 12,330 confirmed cases, down from a second-wave daily peak of 31,500 at the start of the month.

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