Coronavirus: Keir Starmer urges government to form 'national consensus' on easing lockdown

4 May 2020, 22:56

Sir Keir Starmer
Sir Keir Starmer. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Sir Keir Starmer has called on Boris Johnson to form a "national consensus" on the next phase of the coronavirus response as ministers work on plans to ease the lockdown.

The Labour leader has backed the extension of the strict measures ahead of talks with the Prime Minister this week.

But he has also continued his criticism of Mr Johnson's handling of the crisis.

"We want to support the Government to get this right and that is why we need a national consensus on what happens next," Sir Keir said.

"Our priority is protecting the public's health and saving lives. That is why we supported the lockdown and again support the restrictions staying in place at this time.

"However, we need to be honest with the public about the challenges ahead. We are in this for the long haul. It is imperative that the Government is properly planning for what happens next and properly supporting our NHS and social care services."

Sir Keir acknowledged public concerns about returning to work after more than six weeks of being told to stay home to protect themselves, loved ones and the NHS.

"People rightly need confidence it's safe before they go back out to work, travel or use public services," Sir Keir added.

Labour has outlined seven principles that it wants the Government to consider when planning for the next phase.

These include enforcing a "national safety standard" for businesses and schools, setting an "ambitious target" for contact tracing and introducing bespoke support for individuals and industries facing huge challenges, such as the hospitality sector.

A national plan to ensure supply chains for protective equipment for key workers are guaranteed and a "structured approach to easing and tightening restrictions" must also be formed, Labour said.

Later this week, the Labour Leader will have talks with the Prime Minister focusing on the lockdown.

Sir Keir has already said he backs an extension of the measures to halt the spread of the virus and promised to work "constructively" with Downing Street.

Ministers must legally review the current measures by May 7, while the PM is expected to set out a "roadmap" setting out the next steps on Sunday.

Boris Johnson is set to lay out a coronavirus "roadmap" this week
Boris Johnson is set to lay out a coronavirus "roadmap" this week. Picture: PA

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His comments come as Boris Johnson is set to lay out a "comprehensive plan" on the UK's return to work and normality this week after he declared the country had "passed the peak" of Covid-19.

The Sun newspaper reported that the PM will announce a three-pronged blueprint which will detail how the economy can be restarted, children will be able to return to school and people can travel to work again safely.

One of the key parts of any strategy is testing with the Government having set itself the target of 100,000 tests per day by the end of yesterday.

Mr Johnson hinted that the Government could recommend face-coverings, partly to give people the confidence to go back to work. He also denied that he would seek to repair the damage to public finances with another dose of austerity.

Downing Street aides told one newspaper only tweaks “at best” should be expected at the next lockdown review on May 7. Large elements could continue into June and beyond.