Conservative MPs angry at the delay of the end of lockdown have rounded on Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock and the Government’s scientific advisers over the extension of coronavirus restrictions.
Multiple Tories cast doubt on the Prime Minister’s commitment that 19 July would be a “terminus” date for the lockdown after he was forced to postpone easing restrictions on June 21.
Although MPs approved the extension of coronavirus restrictions, the PM suffered a major rebellion from his own party, with 49 Tory backbenchers voting against the government.
On Monday, Johnson warned thousands more people may die because of the rapid spread of the more transmissible Delta variant, which was first identified in India.
The strain is associated with lower vaccine effectiveness against mild disease and could cause more hospitalisations in the unvaccinated.
The Prime Minister said the extra time would be used to speed up Britain's vaccination programme - already one of the world's furthest advanced - with two-thirds of the population expected to have had two shots by 19 July.
Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday ahead of the vote, Tory former minister Dr Liam Fox said the UK could not wait for those who had refused a vaccine.
He said: “What we cannot have is the country being held to ransom by any groups who have been offered a vaccine but have chosen not to take – that is utterly unacceptable.”
Tory MP Steve Baker described the current situation as a “dystopia” and told the Commons: “We have transformed this society for the worse.
“We have put in place a culture of habits which will take years to shake off, culture and habits which distance people from one another and diminish their quality of life, the quality of relationships that they have with one another.”
Conservative MP for Poole Sir Robert Syms added “we have won the battle” against COVID-19 after he highlighted hospital admission rates in his area.
He said of the delay: “My view is that most of the senior ministers who took this decision need a damn good holiday because if you look at the data, if you look at what’s happening in the country, the restrictions are totally out of kilter with the sense of the problem.
“Let me take the south west of England, there’s 5.6 million people, there are 23 people in hospital, there are two in ICU. In Dorset where there’s nearly a million people, we have one person in hospital.
“Yet hundreds of couples that want to get married, businesses that want to be viable, people that want to get their lives back in order, I just think the balance is wrong.”
Watch: Boris Johnson faces pressure from Tory MPs over delay in lockdown easing
Tory Huw Merriman said that young people “need to see a return” to normality.
He added: “I spoke to one of the very senior NHS leads who has university-aged children and he said to me – and I wrote it down – too many of us making decisions have forgotten what it feels like to be a 20-year-old or how miserable it is to be a 20-year-old right now.
“Those lives of young people that have made great sacrifices to help to the cohorts 1-9 that I talked about, they have made those sacrifices, they need to see a return, they need to see the return this summer.”
The UK reported a further 9,055 coronavirus cases on Wednesday, the highest since 25 February, and up by almost a fifth compared to Tuesday.
There were also another nine deaths within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test.