The second national lockdown in England that is set to be imposed on Thursday must be the country's last, former prime minister Tony Blair has said.
MPs are expected to vote in favour of the lockdown, that is set to run until 2 December, on Wednesday, despite some criticism from Tory backbenchers to Boris Johnson’s plans.
Blair has now argued that the country must “live alongside this virus safely and freely through the winter”, adding that COVID “will be with us for some years”.
Writing in the Daily Mail, Blair said: “This national lockdown should be our last. There is an urgent responsibility to spend the next month putting in place the tools that will allow us to live alongside this virus safely and freely through the winter…
“Lockdowns have already cost the country £190billion in lost productivity, we have rising unemployment and there is a huge collateral health impact, with, for example, cancer referrals tumbling by 70% while NHS waiting lists have soared.”
As the country – and the world – pins hopes of the pandemic ending on a vaccine, Blair warned that it will take more to fight back against coronavirus.
He added: “My point is very simple: given this cost, we must do everything we can to speed up the introduction of the four pillars — especially those drugs that will save lives over the winter months and the vaccines which will reduce the impact of infection on NHS workers and those most at risk from the virus.
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“There is no silver bullet, but a combination of vaccines, therapeutics, mass testing and world-class data collection will give us a substantial armoury with which to succeed.”
While Blair argued against the measures proposed by government advisers, he said we should not “set aside the views of experts” as “there may be good reasons for being cautious or doing things in a certain way”.
However, sticking to his theme of ending lockdown, he added: “It is surely right to see if we cannot hasten the introduction of the things that can offer the only solutions to get us out of what is otherwise a ghastly cycle of lockdown, followed by easing, then further lockdown.”
MPs are preparing to vote on the new four-week coronavirus lockdown for England amid warnings the NHS will be overwhelmed with thousands more deaths unless action is taken.
The government is expected to comfortably win the Commons vote with Labour’s backing, seeing off a number of Tory rebels saying they would vote against the restrictions because of the impact on civil liberties and the economic damage the measures will cause.
It is thought about 15 Conservative MPs could defy the whips and vote against the new controls.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab said the 2 December end date of the second national lockdown in England had been “written into law”.
The latest government figures showed that a further 397 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for COVID-19 as of Tuesday, bringing the UK total to 47,250, while there were a further 20,018 lab-confirmed cases of the disease.
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