LONDON: UK lawmakers have overwhelmingly approved the government’s decision to impose the new national lockdown in England, the third of its kind since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in the country early last year.
Following a four-hour debate in the House of Commons, the lower house of parliament, MPs on Wednesday evening approved the lockdown by 524 votes to 16, reports Xinhua news agency.
The House of Commons was recalled from its Christmas recess to debate and retrospectively voted on the lockdown which has already been in force since it was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday evening.
Earlier Wednesday, Johnson told MPs that the easing of England’s national lockdown would be a “gradual unwrapping” and not a “big bang”.
He told MPs that the government will use “every available second” of the lockdown to place an “invisible shield” around elderly and vulnerable people through the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines in the coming weeks.
MPs were also told that the lockdown regulations will be kept under continuous review, with a legal obligation to remove them once they are no longer needed.
With Johnson’s comfortable majority in Parliament, coupled with an announcement by main opposition leader Keir Starmer that Labour would back the national lockdown, victory in the vote was guaranteed.
In his statement, Johnson also justified his decision to close all schools from Tuesday, just a day after they had re-opened after the Christmas vacation.
“The government had to close schools because they could serve as a vector, allowing the virus to spread to others,” the Prime Minister said, adding he had been keen to keep children in school.
Also on Wednesday, the UK reported a further 1,041 coronavirus-related deaths, the highest ingle-day spike since April 2020, official figures showed.
This brought the total number of coronavirus-related deaths in the UK to 76,877.
Official data also showed that the number of new confirmed cases hit 62,322 on Wednesday, the highest single-day spike since the outbreak of the pandemic.
It was the second day in a row that the number of daily confirmed cases topped 60,000.
The total number of coronavirus cases in the country now stands at 2,845,265.