UK’s Johnson faces opposition from his own party on lockdown

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing opposition from his own party as he prepares to ask British lawmakers to back plans for a second national lockdown to combat the exponential spread of COVID-19

LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing opposition from his own party as he prepares to ask British lawmakers to back plans for a second national lockdown to combat the exponential spread of COVID-19.

Johnson will on Monday provide the House of Commons with details of a proposed four-week lockdown in England that is set to begin Thursday. The plan was hurriedly announced Saturday after scientific advisers told the government rapidly rising infection rates risked swamping hospitals in a matter of weeks.

The prime minister is facing opposition from some members of his own party who say the lockdown will cost jobs and infringe on human rights. Meanwhile, the opposition Labour Party has criticized the delay in implementing a policy first recommended on Sept. 21, although the party says it will back the restrictions when they come to a vote on Wednesday.

“Faced with these latest figures, there is no alternative but to take further action at a national level,″ Johnson will tell lawmakers, according to excerpts of his speech released in advance. “I know some in the House believe we should have reached this decision earlier, but I believe it was right to try every possible option to get this virus under control at a local level, with strong local action and strong local leadership.”

The new policy comes three weeks after Johnson announced plans for a three-tiered regional approach to combatting the virus, with tighter restrictions imposed on areas with higher infection rates. The government chose that strategy in an effort to reduce the economic and social impact of new restrictions, even though a committee of scientific advisers recommended a short lockdown as a “circuit breaker” to slow rising infection rates.

But that approach became untenable after new analysis showed COVID-19 was spreading so rapidly that the number of deaths this winter could more than double those recorded earlier this year. The government needs to act now to prevent the National Health Service from being overwhelmed, Johnson said Saturday.

The U.K. has Europe’s deadliest outbreak of COVID-19, with 46,807 deaths recorded through Sunday.

Under the proposed lockdown, most shops will be closed until Dec. 2, with bars and restaurants restricted to takeaway and delivery services. People will be ordered to stay home, except for work, exercise and essential shopping. Schools will remain open.

“If these kinds of measures were being taken in any totalitarian country around the world, we would be decrying it as a form of evil, and here the removal of people’s fundamental liberties is going almost without comment,” Brady told the BBC.

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