Starmer says Government must not delay should SAGE recommend further action on Covid

22 December 2020, 22:56

Sir Keir Starmer has said his party would back the Government if scientists call for tougher Covid regulations
Sir Keir Starmer has said his party would back the Government if scientists call for tougher Covid regulations. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said the Government must not delay taking further action to fight the spread of Covid should the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) recommend it.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Sir Keir called for any Sage recommendations on restrictions to be published without delay, accompanied by a plan for rolling out vaccines "as quickly as possible".

He also said his party would back the Government if scientists call for tougher Covid regulations in response to the new virus strain.

Sir Keir said further national restrictions now seemed "sadly inevitable", adding that Labour would back plans to recall Parliament should a vote be required.

Read more: New Covid strain: Where is the new variant in the UK and where did it come from?

In the letter, he told Boris Johnson: "It is important the Government is now straight with the British people about the hard choices that are ahead and the steps that are necessary to get back control of the virus.

"Sadly, it does now seem inevitable that further national restrictions will be necessary. The chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said on Monday at the press conference 'it's likely that measures will need to be increased in some places in due course and not reduced'.

"It is essential that any future restrictions are introduced swiftly to save lives and protect the economy in the long term."

He added: "In mid-October, it was revealed that Sage had recommended the immediate introduction of a circuit breaker on September 21.

"You rejected that proposal only to implement a full national lockdown in England at the start of November. That decision to delay led to a longer, deeper lockdown that caused further damage to the economy. We cannot make the same mistake again."

Sir Keir said some parts of the country "appear to already be in a third wave".

He added: "Areas of the Midlands and the North have been in lockdown for months. The last thing the NHS and businesses there can afford is a third wave caused by a slow response to the latest scientific advice and data.

"That is why, should Sage recommend introducing further restrictions or another national lockdown in England, I am urging the Government to publish those proposals in full immediately and implement them as soon as possible.

"At this moment of national crisis, we need strong, clear and decisive leadership from Government. Labour is prepared to support you in the national effort in taking those decisions.

"If Parliament must be recalled to vote for tougher restrictions, we are ready to back you - even if that means further restrictions before the end of the year.

"The vaccine offers the only way out of the pandemic in the long term. That's why any further restrictions in England must be accompanied by a plan to get the vaccine rolled out as quickly as possible.

"I hope you will give this request serious consideration and I would welcome the opportunity to discuss it with you further."