British MPs have approved the new tier system of coronavirus restrictions designed to replace the month-long national lockdown that ended on Wednesday.
The system was on Tuesday backed by 291 votes to 78 in the House of Commons (lower house of parliament). The latest development means that more than 55 million people will be under the highest two tiers from 0001 GMT on Wednesday.
Ahead of the vote, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged MPs to back his “tougher” three-tier system for England.
The National Health Service (NHS) “remains under pressure” despite the progress in tackling the pandemic following the nationwide lockdown, Johnson said.
The prime minister said he recognized that the hospitality sector had “borne a disproportionate share of the burden” due to the restrictions and confirmed an extra 40 million pounds (53.6 million U.S. dollars) for some affected pubs.
Pubs in Tier 2 areas, which cover 57 percent of England’s population, can only serve alcohol with a “substantial meal” and are subject to rules restricting households mixing indoors.
In Tier 3, pubs and restaurants can only offer takeaway and delivery services. The new three-tier system will put 99 percent of England in the toughest Tier 2 and Tier 3 restrictions.
Amid increasing pressure from Conservative Party MPs, Johnson has said the new system has “a sunset” clause, or expiry date, of Feb. 3, and will be reviewed every fortnight.
Another 13,430 people in Britain have tested positive for COVID-19 in a 24-hour span, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 1,643,086, and the coronavirus-related deaths rose by 603 to 59,051, according to official figures released Tuesday.
As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, countries including France, Germany, China, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States are racing to find a vaccine.
According to the website of the World Health Organization, as of Nov. 26, there were 213 COVID-19 candidate vaccines being developed worldwide, and 49 of them were in clinical trials