MPs have backed a new four-week coronavirus lockdown for England, after Boris Johnson warned of an “existential threat” to the NHS without action to curb the spread of the disease.
From Thursday, pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops will again be forced to close their doors after the Commons voted by 516 to 38 – a Government majority of 478 – for the new restrictions.
Among those voting for the new restrictions were Watford MP Dean Russell, Hertsmere MP Oliver Dowden, and South West Hertfordshire MP Gagan Mohindra.
Mr Russell has issued the following statement explaining why he voted the way he did.
He published on his Facebook page: "Today I made the decision to vote to ensure our NHS does not reach capacity and to ensure it can continue to carry out urgent and non-urgent services.
"The decision was not an easy one. My decision was taken after much consideration of the concerns raised to me by constituents, evidence from my role on the Health & Social Care Select Committee and many briefings from a range of experts and Government ministers."
Mr Russell continued: "I am very aware of the risk that lockdown places on jobs, businesses and livelihoods, and the impact on mental health. My decision had to balance the impact on these with the immediate risk to lives - both from COVID but also for many non-COVID patients via a potentially overwhelmed NHS.
"Unfortunately it is clear that there is no approach to tackling COVID that doesn’t cause harm both in the UK and around the world.
"However, I felt on balance the need to protect lives had to be paramount knowing this would be a short term and limited measure which comes with additional economic measures to support businesses and protect jobs."
Watford currently has one of the highest coronavirus rates in Hertfordshire, with 173 cases recorded in the seven days to October 31.
A total of 32 Conservative MP's rebelled, including Hemel Hempstead MP, Sir Mike Penning.
Sir Mike told constituents earlier this week it was "illogical" for the whole of England to be subject to new restrictions, and spoke about the "major impact" a lockdown would have on businesses.
He added he made a commitment to his constituents in October that he would "revoke" any proposal for a further lockdown.
Broxbourne MP Charles Walker and Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland also voted against the government.
The move by politicians today comes as the NHS in England was set to move into its highest alert level – level 4 – from midnight amid a continuing rise in coronavirus patients needing hospital care.
NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said the service already had “22 hospitals’ worth” of Covid-19 patients and now faced a “serious situation ahead”.
In Parliament, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that without action now, the chances of the NHS being in “extraordinary trouble” by December were “very, very high”.
He added: “Let me be clear that this existential threat to our NHS comes not from focusing too much on coronavirus, as is sometimes asserted, but from not focusing enough.
“We simply cannot reach the point where our National Health Service is no longer there for everyone.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said that while the restrictions were not “desirable or perfect”, they were necessary as the Government had “lost control of the virus”.