‘Winter Is Coming’: Prepare for New Restrictions, Warns Anti-Lockdown MP

A man wearing a protective face mask walks his dog past a billboard showing Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Manchester, north-west England on November 6, 2020, as the second lockdown comes into force in England. - A united effort to tackle spiking coronavirus infection rates has been called for …
OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

A Conservative MP has warned that “winter is coming” and predicted the government could impose fresh restrictions on Britons in the coming months.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce this evening that all remaining social distancing measures will be lifted on July 19th.

While welcoming the prospect, Mark Harper, chairman of the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group (CRG), however, warned that “it’s only a number of weeks until the autumn arrives” and with it the rise in seasonal respiratory diseases, meaning the government could attempt to bring back lockdown and social distancing in the colder seasons.

Mr Harper, who has branded the government’s lockdown powers “draconian”, wrote for the Conservative Home website on Monday: “Anyone who thinks I’m being too pessimistic should take a look at the small print in Government documents, which offer more than a hint that the Government is intending to reintroduce restrictions this winter.”

The MP for the Forest of Dean quoted documents published last week from the influential Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) that stated that “stronger measures may be desirable for autumn and winter”.

The CRG chairman wrote: “There’s also an emphasis on retaining a low prevalence of cases ‘even if hospitalisations and deaths are kept low by vaccination’ which doesn’t seem very far away from a Zero Covid strategy.

“What’s more, buried deep in a Government document released recently lurks a clear intention to extend the Coronavirus Act powers into 2022, when something that was supposed to be ‘emergency’ legislation would have been in force for two years.”

Harper went on to note that the CRG will have to keep actively working to hold the government to account on matters related to lockdown as the official Opposition, the Labour Party, “has been largely AWOL on Covid matters”.

“I had hoped that by this point ahead of the summer recess, our work would have been done. However, I fear that our efforts will be required this autumn and winter to ensure that proper Parliamentary scrutiny of key Government decisions takes place. Winter is coming,” he concluded, quoting the ominous line from Game of Thrones.

Mr Harper is not the only anti-lockdown MP to have predicted a return to restrictions when the colder seasons approach, with Conservative MP Sir Charles Walker warning last month: “…it’s clear to me in the balance of probability this lockdown will go on through the Summer and tighten up in the Autumn and Winter.” Likewise, former Conservative Party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said last week that the pressure on the government to reintroduce restrictions in the autumn would be “enormous”.

Just last week, while laying out the roadmap for the final stage of returning freedoms to Britons, England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty suggested that there would not be a real return to normal until spring 2022, predicting a “quite difficult winter”.

Mr Johnson is expected to downplay talks of ‘Freedom Day’ in his announcement tonight, telling Britons to exercise “caution”, according to planned comments by the prime minister seen by The Times.

“Cases will rise as we unlock, so as we confirm our plans today, our message will be clear. Caution is absolutely vital and we must all take responsibility so we don’t undo our progress, ensuring we continue to protect our NHS,” Johnson will say.

And while the mask mandate is also set to end, Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi said that covering your face would be “expected” in certain settings, even if not required by law.

“Indoors, in crowded carriages, the very clear guidelines will be that you’re expected to wear a mask,” Mr Zahawi told Times Radio on Sunday.

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