Tory fury as Boris FINALLY publishes 'impact assessment' of Covid 'Tiers'

Boris Johnson today insisted he 'understands' the scale of anger over the new coronavirus tiers as he finally published an impact assessment of the measures - but the document claimed it is impossible to gauge the economic hit.

The PM appealed for his mutinous MPs to back the new system in a crunch vote tomorrow, as up to 100 threaten to defy the whip and oppose the plan.

The government released its assessment of the economic and social effects of the pandemic and its response this evening. 

But the document made clear that it is not possible to say exactly how the tiers will hit local areas - something that has been a key demand of Tory MPs. It also insisted there was no way of quantifying the consequences of not imposing any curbs. 

The assessment said it was 'clear that restrictions to contain COVID-19 have had major impacts on the economy and public finances, even if it is not possible to forecast with confidence the precise impact of a specific change to a specific restriction'. 

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Tory rebel ringleader Mark Harper complained that the information was being released too late, just 24 hours before MPs are due to make their decision. 'This information is what Ministers should have been insisting on before they made their decisions so it surely could have been made available earlier,' he said. 

Mr Johnson has been scrambling to defuse a massive Tory revolt by offering a series of concessions, including a February renewal date, detailed impact assessments, and more money for pubs and restaurants, and ahead of a crunch Commons vote tomorrow.

Whips are trying to talk round 100 Conservatives on the verge of joining the mutiny, with fury that just 1 per cent of England is being put in the lowest level of restrictions from Wednesday, with many areas in Tier 3 even though they have seen few or no infections. 

Calls for a rethink have been reinforced by more evidence that the UK's outbreak is shrinking fast, with just 12,330 Covid-19 infections recorded in the lowest Monday toll since September, 

On a visit to pharmaceutical firm Wockhardt at their facility in North Wales, Mr Johnson said England's lockdown had got the disease under control with the R number - a measure of how quickly the virus is spreading - below 1.

He said: 'We can't afford to take our foot off the throat of the beast, to take our foot off the gas, we can't afford to let it out of control again.

'The tiering system is tough, but it's designed to be tough and to keep it under control.

'I know that lots of people think that they are in the wrong tier and I understand people's frustration.

'I particularly understand the frustration of the hospitality sector that has borne so much and been through so much in the last few months, and we will do everything we can, as we have been doing, to protect and to encourage that sector throughout the weeks and months ahead.' 

Labour is set to save Mr Johnson's bacon by refusing to help kill off the measures, but being forced to rely on Sir Keir Starmer's support would be devastating for the premier's authority. 

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Earlier, Environment Secretary George Eustice raised questions about how long restrictions will be needed for this morning, suggesting that 'we can see a way out of this during the course of early next summer' - whereas Mr Johnson has previously voiced hope that the crisis will be largely past by Easter. 

And the backlash was further fuelled with Imperial College's huge monthly React survey finding a dramatic fall off in cases - in line with the daily figures being released by the government.

In other coronavirus twists and turns today: 

Welsh pubs will be forced to close at 6pm and banned from selling alcohol drinks from Friday as the country is plunged into a new lockdown just weeks after the last one ended; Some High Street shops will open 24 hours a day in December in a desperate bid to offset the £900million a day economic hit of the new tier restrictions;  Mr Eustice underlined the complexity of the new rules in a round of interviews this morning, suggesting a Scotch Egg could constitute a 'substantial meal' - which is required to be allowed to order alcoholic drinks in pubs in areas subject to Tier 2  The Prime Minister announced a £20million boost for medicine manufacturing in the UK in a bid to strengthen the country's response to future pandemics;  A further 215 people who tested positive for Covid died in hospital in England in the last 24 hours with another 12,155 lab-confirmed cases in the UK.  Under new guidelines, Santa's grottos can open without Father Christmas needing to wear a mask, although children will be banned from sitting on his knee.

On a visit to Wales today, Boris Johnson appealed for his mutinous MPs to back the new system in a crunch vote tomorrow, as up to 100 threaten to defy the whip and oppose the plan

The government released its assessment of the economic and social effects of the pandemic and its response this evening

On a visit to Wales today (left), Boris Johnson appealed for his mutinous MPs to back the new system in a crunch vote tomorrow, as up to 100 threaten to defy the whip and oppose the plan. The government released its assessment of the economic and social effects of the pandemic and its response this evening (right)

Imperial College's monthly React survey of 105,000 people between November 13 and 24, published this morning, found that coronavirus cases fell to 72,000 infections per day from around 100,000 new infections per day at the end of October. This graph shows how cases have largely fallen everywhere in the past month, particularly in the north-east and north-west. The darker the blue colour the larger the fall

Imperial College's monthly React survey of 105,000 people between November 13 and 24, published this morning, found that coronavirus cases fell to 72,000 infections per day from around 100,000 new infections per day at the end of October. This graph shows how cases have largely fallen everywhere in the past month, particularly in the north-east and north-west. The darker the blue colour the larger the fall

Sharp decline: Based on its October survey it was estimated that there were around 100,000 new infections per day (right) --the new data shows that in November (left), after lockdown began, this then fell to 72,000 infections per day. The darker the brown colour the higher rate of cases

Sharp decline: Based on its October survey it was estimated that there were around 100,000 new infections per day (right) --the new data shows that in November (left), after lockdown began, this then fell to 72,000 infections per day. The darker the brown colour the higher rate of cases

At a glance: Key findings of the React study 
Covid-19 cases fell to around 72,000 infections per day in England towards the end of November, from around 100,000 at the end of October; Prevalence has halved in the North West and North East – boosting hopes that millions of people living in the North could be moved down into Tier Two; But prevalence — the number of people infected at one time — has remained 'almost unchanged' in London and the Midlands; However, the rapid growth of Covid seen in the South of the country before the national lockdown was imposed was 'no longer apparent'; England's R rate could be as low as 0.71 but is thought to stand at 0.88 — meaning the outbreak is shrinking and is below the crucial level of one across the country; Despite the low R rate, the outbreak is still only halving in size every 37 days, prompting Matt Hancock to say 'we cannot afford to take our foot off the pedal just yet'; Covid prevalence rates dropped among adults of all ages, including those who are most vulnerable to severe complications of the disease; But rates started to increase slightly in school-aged children, according to the results of the study that swabbed 105,000 people between November 13-24; Covid was more prevalent in deprived areas, bolstering evidence that societal inequalities may contribute to the spread of the disease.

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Mr Eustice underlined the complexity of the new rules in a round of interviews this morning, suggesting a Scotch Egg could constitute a 'substantial meal' - which is required to be allowed to order alcoholic drinks in pubs in areas subject to Tier 2. 

The impact assessment publication is the latest an attempt to limit the scale of a rebellion which has been growing since last week.

But although the document includes forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility, it appears to feature scant new information. 

Mr Harper, who heads the Covid Recovery Group of Tory lockdown sceptic MPs, said: 'This information is what Ministers should have been insisting on before they made their decisions so it surely could have been made available earlier. 

'As I have said before, I and a number of colleagues are particularly keen to understand the likely impact of the restrictions on Covid and the full extent of some of the non-Covid health implications they have, as well as the undoubted impact on livelihoods. 

'So we will read and analyse this data tonight and report back on our findings later tomorrow.' 

Mr Johnson yesterday dangled the prospect that some areas facing the harshest curbs in Tier Three could see them eased as part of a review before Christmas.

He also announced the new rules would be scrapped altogether in February unless MPs vote in the New Year to keep them in place until Easter. 

But in a letter to MPs, the he conceded: 'These will not be easy decisions. With Christmas round the corner, and the difficult months of January and February ahead, we will need to continue to exercise caution.'

Mr Johnson insisted 'no prime minister wants to impose restrictions which cause such harm to society, the economy and people's mental health'.

But he warned that the 'tougher tiers' are needed 'if we are to keep the virus under control and avoid either overwhelming the NHS or another national lockdown which is far more damaging and restrictive than these tiers'.

The government is also planning extra cash for bars and restaurants hit by upper-tier closures. 

However, Mark Harper, chair of the Covid Recovery Group of lockdown sceptic Tory MPs, warned that the details would dictate whether they push ahead with the rebellions.

'I welcome the fact that the Government has recognised our concerns about the enormous impact that its proposals will have on the hospitality industry and has suggested further support,' he said. 

'We look forward to seeing the detail of the support proposed being set out before the vote on the restrictions tomorrow evening, along with the cost-benefit analysis we've been asking for. I am particularly concerned about some of the non-Covid health implications these restrictions have been having. 

This needs to be published as soon as practically possible, so that MPs have a chance to digest it ahead of tomorrow's vote.' 

South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay told MailOnline that the React survey suggested the previous, less dramatic tiers were already bringing down cases, together with people in higher infection areas taking matters into their own hands by being more careful. 

Sturgeon says she won't have 'indoor Christmas' with family this year  

Nicola Sturgeon has revealed she will not be celebrating Christmas indoors with family this year.

Despite signing off on a UK-wide loosening for the festive season, the Scottish First Minister said she did not want to put her family 'at risk'. 

'Normally, Christmas, my husband and I would have both our families here in our own home. We will not be doing that this year,' she said.

'I've not seen my parents since July and I would dearly love to see them today and at Christmas, but I don't want to put them at risk when a vaccine is so close.

'We might go and have a family walk somewhere, but the idea ... of an indoors Christmas dinner is something we will not do this year.' 

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Mr Mackinlay said 'obviously lockdowns work' and there was a lot of 'conjecture' around the data.  

'Was it the lockdown that has caused the numbers to drop, or were they on the way out already?' he said.

'It seems to me that the plateau was reached resulting from the tail end of where we were before, rather than directly attributable to the lockdown.'

He added: 'The React one is suggesting we are on a nice downward path, is a new system required? It is very difficult to know.'  

In interviews this morning, Mr Eustice admitted up to 100 Tory MP had 'concerns' about the new Covid restrictions for England.

He told Sky News: 'The chief whip, obviously, will be talking to those MPs who have got concerns. I've seen suggestions that there could be up to 100 or so people that have got concerns.'

He added: 'I think there is great frustration with the emergency measures that we have had to take to deal with this pandemic.

'We haven't taken them lightly. We have had to take these to get the virus under control.

'What we need to show to those MPs and to the country at large is that we have got a clear route towards fixing this problem and turning the corner.'

Mr Eustice was refused to give a timeframe for how long tiered restrictions are expected to last, but said he believes local lockdowns were working.

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