Sir Keir Starmer has warned the third national lockdown “follows a pattern” of Boris Johnson being “too slow” to act and follow expert advice.
The Labour leader said his party would support the new restrictions and urged people to comply with them, before criticising the Prime Minister’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic response.
Speaking in the Commons, Sir Keir said: “The situation we face is clearly very serious, perhaps the darkest moment of the pandemic.
“The virus is out of control, over a million people in England now have Covid, the number of hospital admissions is rising, tragically so are the numbers of people dying.
“And it’s only the early days of January and the NHS is under huge strain. In those circumstances, tougher restrictions are necessary.
“We will support them, we will vote for them and urge everybody to comply with the new rules – stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives.”
The Government has been too slow to act. We must now get behind the national effort to be the first in the world to get our country vaccinated. pic.twitter.com/zNgtbI9XNF
— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) January 6, 2021
Sir Keir went on: “This is not just bad luck, it’s not inevitable, it follows a pattern.
“In the first wave of the pandemic the Government was repeatedly too slow to act and we ended 2020 with one of the highest death tolls in Europe and the worst-hit economy of major economies.
“In the early summer, a Government report called Preparing For A Challenging Winter warned of the risk of a second wave, of the virus mutating and of the NHS being overwhelmed. It set out the preparations the Government needed to take, I put that report to the Prime Minister at PMQs in July.
“Throughout the autumn Track and Trace didn’t work. Sage advised a circuit-break in September but the Prime Minister delayed for weeks before acting.
“We had a tiered system that didn’t work and then we had the debacle of the delayed decision to change the rules on mixing at Christmas.
“The most recent advice about the situation we’re now in was given on December 22 but no action was taken for two weeks until Monday of this week. These are the decisions that have led us to the position we’re now in – and the vaccine is now the only way out and we must all support the national effort to get it rolled out as quickly as possible.”
Sir Keir added there should have been a contingency plan in place in case schools needed to close again.
Mr Johnson said Sir Keir has previously acted with “derision” about the vaccination programme.
He told the Commons: “I’m grateful for the right honourable gentleman’s support in the vaccination programme.
“I must say I do remember the derision with which he attacked the vaccine taskforce and the efforts that they went to to secure huge… supplies. I remember it well, it was at Prime Minister’s Question Time.
“I think it would be a good thing if he could continue to keep up that spirit.”