Labour backs lockdown extension but urges ‘clarity’ on exit plan

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said he “fully” supports the Government’s decision to extend the coronavirus lockdown.

Social distancing measures will be in place for at least another three weeks, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced on Thursday.

Reacting to the announcement, however, Sir Keir reiterated concerns from frontline healthcare workers and suggested questions remain about equipment and the eventual exit plan.

He said: ‪”The priority now must be to ensure we see a ramp up in testing, that staff get the PPE they desperately need and more is done to protect our care homes from the virus.

“We also need clarity about what plans are being put in place to lift the lockdown when the time is right.”

Meanwhile, businesses raised concerns about the economic impact of the extension.

The CBI said that public health remains the “number one priority” but emphasised firms’ need for cash from the Government.

It said: “It’s vital that the Job Retention Scheme starts delivering cash to struggling companies next week, as HMRC is working hard to achieve. Firms also need urgent clarity on the scheme’s duration.”

Director general Dame Carolyn Fairbairn said “eyes will turn to how the lockdown can be lifted”, adding: “It’s not too early to start to plan, cautiously and with public health paramount, for the revival of our economy.”

Closed shops on Camden High Street, London
Closed shops on Camden High Street, London

A scientist said the “wider consequences of lockdown are rapidly accumulating”, including a rise in domestic violence and an increase in public anxieties.

Linda Bauld, Bruce and John Usher Professor of Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, said people were dying from non-Covid related conditions and this could rise.

She explained: “There are more seriously ill people dying at home, more calls to 999, and accident and emergency hospital admissions have fallen.

“Alcohol and drug services cannot support their clients in the usual way, and although we don’t yet know if directly alcohol and drug attributable deaths will rise, this is a real possibility.”