Sir Keir Starmer tonight called for a second national lockdown to start immediately as he claimed vindication for calling for an economy-wrecking ‘circuit-breaker’ two weeks ago.
The Labour leader also indicated that his Party will back the Government in a vote on a new England-wide lockdown due to take place in the House of Commons next week.
He welcomed Prime Minister Boris Johnson‘s plans to plunge the country into a second shutdown, but told reporters tonight that it should have happened ‘weeks ago’.
Meanwhile, London Mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted that he was ‘furious’ that the Government had ‘dithered and delayed’, saying their ‘indecision will have unimaginable consequences’ for ‘lives and livelihoods’.
And Leader of the Liberal Democrats Sir Ed Davey called the Tory Government ‘an utter shambles’, tweeting: ‘Through dither and delay they have cost jobs and lives. PM must ensure people have the support they need through this lockdown – and start work on a UK wide plan for Christmas.’
It comes as the Prime Minister tonight announced that England will be plunged into a second shutdown, due to take effect from midnight on Thursday until December 2.
People must stay at home unless for specific reasons, such as going to the supermarket or schools, while pubs, restaurants, entertainment venues and non-essential shops will close.
Childcare, early years settings, schools, colleges and universities will remain open, with Mr Johnson telling a No10 press conference: ‘We cannot let this virus damage our children’s futures even more than it has already’.
As England braces for a second national lockdown:
- The UK recorded 326 deaths within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 and 21,915 lab-confirmed cases;
- The National Education Union called for schools and colleges to be shut as part of the lockdown;
- Health Minister said Government could only have predicted need for a second lockdown with ‘crystal ball’;
- SAGE adviser warned Covid-19 is ‘running riot’ across all age groups and hospitals are at risk of being overrun;
- Number of virus patients in hospital has doubled in the past fortnight, with 10,708 patients being treated;
- ONS said 50,000 people were being infected with Covid-19 each day, with 274 deaths reported yesterday;
- A poll by anti-lockdown group Recovery found that more than 70 per cent of people were more worried about the effect of lockdown than they were of catching Covid.
Sir Keir Starmer tonight indicated that the Labour Party will back the Government in a vote on a new England-wide lockdown in the Commons
Meanwhile, London Mayor Sadiq Khan tonight tweeted that he was ‘furious’ that the Government has ‘dithered and delayed yet again’
Boris Johnson took the country back to square one as he unveiled a new national month-long lockdown to avoid a ‘medical and moral disaster’ – ordering the public to stay at home
Sir Keir told reporters tonight: ‘Everybody is concerned about the rise in infections, the hospital admissions and tragically the number of deaths. That’s why three weeks ago, I called for circuit-break.
‘The Government completely rejected that only now to announce the self-same thing. Alas the delay now will cost, the lockdown will be longer, it’ll be harder and there’s a human cost which will be very, very real.
‘Now, there’s no denying these measures are necessary and I’m glad that the Government has finally taken the decision that it should have taken weeks ago.’
He indicated that Labour will back the Government in a Commons vote on the new lockdown, saying ‘these measures are necessary’, but warned against further delay.
Asked about the restrictions not coming into force until Thursday, the Labour leader told reporters that they should be brought in ‘swiftly’.
Sadiq Khan said the Government’s ‘indecision will have unimaginable consequences’ for ‘lives and livelihoods’ and claimed ‘acting early and decisively’ will suppress coronavirus
Labour’s shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds took at swipe at what she called the Government’s ‘lack of clarity on support’, calling it ‘inexcusable’
‘The last thing we need is days before restrictions come in. If they’re necessary, they’re necessary now,’ he added.
Sir Keir added it was unfair to pretend to the public that Christmas ‘will be normal’, telling reporters: ‘This lockdown is going on to at least December 2, everybody’s seen the figures, and, therefore, I don’t think it’s fair to pretend that Christmas is going to be normal in any sense of the word.
‘I think we need to level with the public on that.
Key points in COVID lockdown Mark 2
- Restrictions will start at midnight on Thursday morning and last until December 2.
- People can only leave their homes for specific reasons, such as to do essential shopping, for outdoor exercise, and for work if they are unable to work from home.
- Non-essential shops will be told to shut, although supermarkets do not need to close off aisles as has happened in Wales.
- Restaurants and bars will be told to shut unless they can operate a takeaway service.
- Businesses that cannot operate remotely – such as construction – should continue as before.
- Exercise is permitted with no limits on frequency, but organised sports – including outdoor activities such as golf – will not be permitted.
- When the lockdown lapses the Tiers system will be reinstated, leaving questions about what metric will be used to decide whether areas can have restrictions eased.
Responding to the No10 press conference, Mr Khan accused the Prime Minister of choosing to ‘completely ignore the expert, scientific advice’.
‘Acting early and decisively is the best way to control this virus, which is why I and many others urged the Government to listen to SAGE and introduce a short, national, circuit breaker weeks ago when it could have saved lives and done the least damage to our economy,’ the Mayor of London tweeted.
‘The Government’s delay means that case numbers are now too high for a short, sharp, circuit breaker to be effective. This has left the Prime Minister with no choice but to introduce a longer national lockdown.
‘It is absolutely imperative that the Government does not repeat its dithering when it comes to the additional economic support that will now clearly be needed.
‘Ministers have a once-in-a-generation responsibility to provide whatever public funding is needed to prop up our economy and support businesses and jobs through this period of much tighter restrictions. The Chancellor needs to stand up urgently and say that he will do whatever it takes for as long as is needed.’
In his statement on the new lockdown measures in England, Mr Khan added: ‘The Prime Minister has done the right thing by extending the furlough scheme which was due to end tomorrow – but he must immediately confirm that it will be at 80 per cent of wages for everyone who needs it.
‘Government support must also include direct grants and loans for businesses in the sectors likely to be worst affected to be made available now.
‘I would like to make a direct appeal to all Londoners as your Mayor: Thank you for the enormous sacrifices you have made over the last seven months. You may not agree with or like the Government’s latest restrictions.
‘However, we must all follow them. Please continue following the restrictions and public health guidance. We must act to protect each other.
‘I know it won’t be easy, but history tells us that Londoners always pull together in times of crisis. We must once again make huge collective sacrifices now in order to prevent even greater suffering later. I will continue to lobby the Government to finally sort out a fully functioning test and trace system and the financial support London needs. I promise you that our city will get through this together.’
Labour’s shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds took at swipe at what she called the Government’s ‘lack of clarity on support’, calling it ‘inexcusable’.
She tweeted: ‘Dither and delay has damaged public health.
‘After the PM’s speech, many will be wondering how they’ll cope – from the self-employed to those on short contracts, and seeking work.’
Sir Keir had demanded that Britain be plunged into a nation-wide ‘circuit-breaker’ as soon as possible as he accused the Prime Minister of losing control of the pandemic.
The Labour leader said a complete shutdown lasting two to three weeks could be timed to take place over half-term to minimise disruption but warned ‘sacrifices’ would have to be made to get the virus back under control.