The Labour leader has accused Boris Johnson’s administration of having “lost control of the virus”, with one in three people in the UK now living under heightened social restrictions.
Sir Keir Starmer said the Prime Minister was guilty of “governing in hindsight” and has called on the Government to produce a road-map for navigating the country through the winter and to a vaccine.
The choice of words will be seen as a play on the Conservative Party leader’s own frequent criticism of Sir Keir during Prime Minister’s Questions, having labelled him “captain hindsight” for the way in which he critiques Government actions.
The condemnation of Mr Johnson’s recent performance comes after a week in which he had to apologise for wrongly describing the latest social restrictions on the North East.
And in a regional interview on Friday, the former London mayor appeared not to know the guidance in place in Merseyside, which became the latest area to enter into a local lockdown on Saturday.
Similar restrictions were also applied in Warrington, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough to tackle the spread of the deadly illness.
Speaking to the Observer, Sir Keir said: “I think they’ve lost control of the virus.
“There isn’t a strategy. There’s a vacuum there,” he added.
“And that’s because there’s division in the Cabinet as to which strategy they should be following.”
The Opposition leader, having faced criticism in recent weeks for backing Government restrictions without offering alternative solutions, has laid out his own five-point plan for getting a grip on the rising infection rate.
On Saturday, the Government confirmed that there had been a further 12,872 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, while the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has noted that the R number – the rate at which the virus is spreading from person to person – has crept up in the past week.
It is now well over the danger rate of 1.0, with scientists estimating it is nationally between 1.3 and 1.6.
Sir Keir’s action plan calls for the Government to:
– Follow the model used by Germany by publishing the criteria the Government uses for deciding when local restrictions are introduced and when they can be lifted.
– Improve public health messaging by expanding the NHS Covid-19 app so people can type in their postcode and get a rundown of the restrictions that apply to them in their area.
– Invest in NHS labs and university labs to expand testing and put local public health teams in charge of contact tracing in their areas.
– Ensure routine regular testing for all high-risk workplaces and high transmission areas with a guarantee of results within 24 hours to improve infection control, including for NHS staff and carers.
– Outline a programme to ensure the manufacture and distribution of any resulting vaccine.
Sir Keir told the Sunday paper that people living in lockdown areas were feeling a “deep sense of despondence” and called on Mr Johnson to offer them “hope” to get through the next six months.