Sir Keir Starmer has called on the prime minister to put England into a national lockdown within 24 hours to contain the “out of control” coronavirus as the official death toll for the UK passed 75,000.
The Labour leader said Boris Johnson’s dithering has been “the source of many problems” and that the PM needs to act now rather than make suggestions about what he might do soon.
“The virus is clearly out of control,” said Starmer today (Sunday). “There’s no good the prime minister hinting that further restrictions are coming into place in a week, or two or three.
“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 to controlling the virus.”
Almost 80% of England’s population are currently living in tier 4 areas where restrictions include “stay at home” rules with non-essential shops closed and strict controls on limiting household interaction. However, infections are continuing to surge with more than 50,000 new Covid cases reported on each of the last six days.
Figures released today for the last 24 hours show another 54,990 new cases of coronavirus. There were another 454 deaths (within 28 days of a positive test) taking the total number to 75,024. The total number of deaths in the UK where Covid-19 is on the death certificate has reached 82,624.
Johnson – ‘probably about to get tougher’
Johnson said he is “fully reconciled” to probably “having to do things in the next few weeks that will be tougher”, telling BBC’s Andrew Marr programme that Covid restrictions are “probably about to get tougher”.
However, the prime minister ruled out closing all schools in England, despite growing calls to do so and legal action from teaching unions. Johnson said there is “no doubt in my mind that schools are safe”, though the PM did not commit to schools remaining open indefinitely.
“We will keep this under constant review, but we will be driven by public health considerations and by the massive importance of education,” said Johnson.
Sage advise school closures
Sage – the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies – has recommended closing all schools in England in order to curb the virus.
Prof Sir Mark Walport told the same Andrew Marr show that “the new variant is transmitting more readily in younger age groups” and that it will be “very, very difficult to keep it under control without much tighter social distancing measures.”
Asked by Marr whether this included keeping schools closed, Prof Walport replied: “Well potentially. We know that transmission occurs within schools, we know that a person aged between 12 and 16 is seven times more likely than others in a household to bring the infection into a household.”
Some schools to re-open, some to stay closed – teacher says its ‘risks lives’
Primary schools in London and in other parts of the south east will remain closed tomorrow but current government advice is for other schools to reopen in England.
The Independent is tonight (Sunday) reporting fears expressed by teachers over schools in England reopening who accuse Johnson of having a “complete disregard” for the safety of pupils and their families.
“The government created the condition that allowed the cases to rise,” said Vik, a secondary school teacher in Manchester.
“Tomorrow, primary schools with classes of 30 are set to open alongside a new variant that affects children more so than the initial strain of the virus. There has been no risk assessment to take this into account. We have no PPE, and are in packed classrooms with no ventilation.
“This risks the lives of students, of our teachers and the community. The NHS is at breaking point. The workplace is so unsafe that they’re unable to enter it. This must bring a pause for reflection. We know the impact on our young people, but students and the communities lives have to come first.”