politics

Keir Starmer calls for nationwide lockdown 'in next 24 hours'


A national lockdown should be imposed within the next 24 hours as the “virus is clearly out of control”, Keir Starmer has said.

The Labour leader said nationwide measures needed to brought in swiftly in England to halt the spread of the virus.

He stopped short of calling for mass closures of schools but said it was “inevitable” that more schools would have to shut.

His comments came after Boris Johnson said “tougher” measures could be needed within weeks to tackle the rapid spread of the virus.

A further 454 deaths were recorded as of Sunday, with 54,990 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.

“The virus is clearly out of control,” Mr Starmer told reporters.

“And there’s no good the Prime Minister hinting that further restrictions are coming into place in a week, or two or three.



Keir Starmer urged the PM to take immediate action

“That delay has been the source of so many problems.

“So, I say bring in those restrictions now, national restrictions, within the next 24 hours.

“That has to be the first step towards controlling the virus.”

But Mr Starmer stopped short of demanding school closures, saying he “did not want to add to the chaos”.

He said: “It is inevitable more schools are going to have to close.

“The Government needs a plan on children’s learning but also for working parents.”

Pressed further, he said: “Nationwide lockdown.

“The prime minister is hinting that that is going to happen, but he is delaying again.

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“Do it now – that is the necessary first step to get the virus back under control.”

His intervention comes after Mr Johnson insisted kids should return to lessons on Monday if their schools are open, but signalled tougher restrictions loomed.



Schools have been plunged into fresh chaos, with primaries shut in London and delayed starts to the term for secondary schools

“It may be that we need to do things in the next few weeks that will be tougher in many parts of the country. I’m fully, fully reconciled to that,” he told BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show.

“I’m sure that all our viewers and our listeners will understand what the sort of things… clearly school closures, which we had to do in March is one of those things.” 

Professor Sir Mark Walport, of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, warned it would be difficult to keep the new Kent variant of Covid-19 under control without “much tighter” social distancing measures.

Unions called for schools to stay shut to curb infections.

NASUWT general secretary Patrick Roach said: “The Prime Minister is playing politics with children’s education.

“The Government needs to act urgently to allay the concerns of parents and teachers by moving immediately to remote education provision across the country from Monday. Parents need to know where they stand.”

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who chairs the Commons Health Select Committee, said: “It is massively risky to open schools when so many parts of the NHS are teetering on the brink.”

NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman said: “For many schools, the Government’s current guidance amounts to little more than ‘keep calm and carry on’ which is just not good enough when local infection rates and hospital admissions are soaring.

“We need to see much more transparency and honesty from the Government.”

But Public Health England senior medical adviser Dr Susan Hopkins said: “School closure can reduce transmission but the public health advice remains that they should be the last to close and the first to reopen.”

Fears are also growing about how teachers will be able to run mass testing programmes for pupils.

Senior Tory MP Sir Bernard Jenkin, who chairs the Commons Liaison Committee, told the Observer: “Schools need a breathing space. They should never have been asked to take charge of testing in schools.”





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