Boris Johnson has said the new coronavirus tiers “have a sunset of 3 February” as he tries to fight off a backlash from Tory MPs.
The prime minister has angered some of his party with a plan to impose stringent restrictions across much of England when the national lockdown ends on Wednesday.
In a letter to colleagues ahead of a Commons vote on the restrictions on Tuesday, Mr Johnson insisted the tiered measures for local areas will be reviewed every fortnight.
“Regulations have a sunset of 3 February,” he writes.
“After the fourth fortnightly review (27 January), parliament will have another vote on the tiered approach, determining whether the measures stay in place until the end of March.”
Mr Johnson said the first review on December 16 would consider the views of local directors of public health, with a final decision on whether any areas should change tiers made at a Cabinet committee.
The changes would then come into effect on 19 December.
And in a further olive branch to MPs, the PM committed to publish more data and outline what circumstances need to change for an area to move down a tier, as well analysis of the health, economic and social impacts of the measures taken to suppress coronavirus.
According to a tally by Sky News, more than 60 Tories have voiced their unhappiness over tiering or have said they are unlikely to support the measures when it comes to the vote.
Some 99% of England’s population will fall under the two toughest tiers when the second national lockdown ends.
About 32 million people – covering 57.3% of England – will fall into Tier 2, and 23.3 million people – 41.5% of the population – are going to be placed in Tier 3.
Only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall, and the Isles of Scilly will be under the lightest Tier 1 controls, while large swathes of the Midlands, North East and North West are in the most restrictive Tier 3.
Several Tories have said they will vote against the new tiers next week, including 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady, Bournemouth East MP Tobias Ellwood and Poole MP Sir Robert Syms.
Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the COVID Recovery Group which has been critical of lockdown restrictions, said the “authoritarianism at work today is truly appalling”.
“The government must publish its analysis of the impact interventions are likely to have on controlling COVID, as well as the non-Covid health impact and the impact on society, people’s livelihoods and businesses,” he said.
Sir Roger Gale, MP for the Kent constituency of North Thanet, criticised the decision to place all of the county in Tier 3, telling Sky News he fears people will “skip over the boundary” to go to a nearby pub in Tier 2.
But Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, urged MPs to think what the NHS might be like in January, saying: “You need to take the precautions now to ensure that the NHS doesn’t get overwhelmed at what is always its busiest time of year.”
Another 479 coronavirus deaths in the UK were announced on Saturday, taking the total to 58,030.