British MPs support new Covid-19 rules despite huge Tory rebellion, Europe News & Top Stories

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LONDON (REUTERS) – British lawmakers on Tuesday (Dec 14) approved several rules to curb the spread of the new Omicron coronavirus variant, despite strong opposition from many of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives.

Lawmakers voted by 369 to 126 in favour of the introduction of a certificate of vaccination or proof of a negative Covid-19 test for those aged above 18 to enter venues such as nightclubs, or for large events, effective from Wednesday.

They also voted to make Covid-19 vaccination compulsory for National Health Service workers in England; daily tests for fully vaccinated people who come into contact with Covid-19 cases, instead of isolation; and the reintroduction of compulsory mask-wearing in public places such as shops and on public transport, the BBC and The Guardian reported.

The new rules were passed thanks largely to the main opposition Labour Party.

Almost 100 Conservative lawmakers voted against the new Covid-19 restrictions, dealing a major blow to Mr Johnson’s authority and raising questions about his leadership.

After a day of frenzied failed lobbying, Mr Johnson was handed the biggest rebellion against his government so far by his party over measures he said were necessary to curb the spread of the new Omicron variant.

The revolt piles pressure on Mr Johnson, already under fire over scandals such as reported parties in his Downing Street office last year – when Britain was in a Covid-19 lockdown – and a pricey refurbishment of his apartment.

Rebelling lawmakers said the vote was a warning shot that he needed to change how the government was operating, or he would face a leadership challenge.

Many Conservatives say some of the new measures are draconian, with several questioning the introduction of a certificate of vaccination or proof of a negative Covid-19 test to enter some venues.

Britain reported 59,610 new Covid-19 infections on Tuesday, the highest figure since early January and the fifth highest recorded since the outbreak of the pandemic in March last year.

More than 5,300 cases of Omicron have been recorded, with 10 people hospitalised. One person has died after contracting the variant, which is set to become the dominant strain in London.

Official figures also showed that there had been 150 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.


British Health Secretary Sajid Javid addressing the House of Commons in London on Dec 14, 2021. PHOTO: AFP/UK PARLIAMENT

The number of patients being admitted to hospital between Dec 4 and 10 was also up 10 per cent compared with the previous seven days, with 5,925 people being hospitalised.

Before the vote, the government had mounted a campaign to keep lawmakers in check, with Mr Johnson warning his ministers there was a huge spike in Omicron cases heading Britain’s way, and that the measures were needed to protect people.

Ministers tried to win over the Conservative rebels, noting that people who have not had two shots of a vaccine can instead offer proof of a negative rapid test to gain access to indoor venues of more than 500 people.

Health Minister Sajid Javid told lawmakers he firmly believed in individual liberty but that “the responsible decision to take is… to move to plan B in England”.