Labour leader urges government to publish coronavirus lockdown exit strategy this week

14 April 2020, 22:30

Sir Keir Starmer has asked the government to lay out its lockdown exit strategy
Sir Keir Starmer has asked the government to lay out its lockdown exit strategy. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called on the government to publish its coronavirus lockdown exit strategy this week "to maintain morale and hope."

The newly-elected Labour leader wrote to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab - who is deputising for Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he recovers from Covid-19 - confirming his party would support an extension to the lockdown.

But he urged the government to issue a clear exit strategy this week which would detail how and where restrictions would be relaxed, if at all.

Sir Keir said: "The question for Thursday, therefore, is no longer about whether the lockdown should be extended, but about what the government’s position is on how and when it can be eased in due course and on what criteria that decision will be taken."

The Labour leader will be speaking with LBC's Nick Ferrari on Wednesday's breakfast show.

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The Labour leader warned that "silent pressures on families and communities" - including mental health, concerns about employment and loneliness - across the UK "cannot be underestimated."

"We agree the measures need to remain in place, but to maintain morale and hope, people need a sense of what comes next," the 57-year-old wrote.

He added: "Many will be struggling with their mental health as well as other health conditions that may not receive the attention they normally would without the virus.

"For some, it will be heightened concerns about their jobs or how they will make ends meet.

"For others, the challenge will be loneliness and separation from loved ones, illness or losing someone to this terrible disease."

Sir Keir asked the foreign secretary to commit to three points:

- Laying out the government's criteria for letting the public know when and how lockdown measures will be relaxed
- Releasing the government's lockdown exit strategy now or within the week
- Detailing the sectors of the economy and public services (such as schools) that are most likely to enjoy a relaxing in restrictions, plus a plan to support people and their livelihoods

The Labour leader said he "profoundly disagrees" with ministers who argue that now is not the correct time to be talking about the easing of lockdown restrictions.

"Overcoming this crisis requires taking the British public with you," he continued.

"Millions of people have played their part and exceeded government assumptions about their willingness to make sacrifices and to stay at home in the national interest.

"In return, the government needs to be open and transparent with the public about how it believes the lockdown will ease and eventually end, how this decision will be informed and what measures are being put in place to plan for this eventuality."

The government has not yet provided detail on how and when the lockdown will be eased, despite mounting pressure to do so.

A Government source said: "Our strategy is focused on saving lives. We have been clear that all decisions will be guided by the scientific advice and data.

"Talk of an exit strategy before we have reached the peak risks confusing the critical message that people need to stay at home in order to protect our NHS and save lives."