Tuesday, 20 Oct 2020

Coronavirus: Labour leader demands two to three week ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown

Sir Keir Starmer has called for a two to three week “circuit breaker” lockdown in England as he accused the government of having “lost control” of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Labour leader urged the prime minister to “act now” and “break the cycle” of COVID-19 infections, as he warned the country could soon “sleep walk into a long and bleak winter”.

He said a “temporary set of clear and effective restrictions” could be introduced to coincide with the October half-term in order to “minimise disruption”.

Speaking at a news conference, in response to Boris Johnson’s announcement of a new three-tier system for localised restrictions, Sir Keir said there was “no longer time to give the prime minister the benefit of the doubt”.

“The government’s plan simply isn’t working – another course is needed,” he added.

Sir Keir claimed Mr Johnson’s government has “not got a credible plan to slow infections, it has lost control of the virus, and it’s no longer following the scientific advice”.

He highlighted how documents published on Monday night revealed the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) had recommended a “circuit breaker” lockdown three weeks ago.

Minutes from a 21 September meeting of SAGE showed that a short period of lockdown was at the top of a list of measures to be considered for “immediate introduction”.

Attendees of the meeting, held on Zoom, included the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty.

The minutes of the meeting were published very shortly after the prime minister had faced questions at a Downing Street news conference on Monday on his new three-tier strategy for localised restrictions.

Labour MP Rebecca Long-Bailey, a former shadow cabinet minister who was defeated by Sir Keir in the Labour leadership contest earlier this year, used a House of Commons debate on the new three-tier system earlier on Tuesday to call for a ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown.

She called on government ministers to “actually follow the science and bring down transmission with a short national circuit breaker and a reform to test, track, trace and isolate”.

“Frankly, the pandemic strategy so far has been akin to throwing a glass of water on a chip pan fire and the government needs to change course today,” she added.

Fellow Labour backbencher Sam Tarry, MP for Ilford South, wrote to Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Tuesday to call for a circuit breaker lockdown across London.

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