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Boris Johnson Has Been Accused Of Being “An Opportunist All His Life” By Keir Starmer After A Clash Over A “Circuit Breaker” Lockdown

Boris Johnson defended his three-tier plans to tackle the rise in coronavirus at PMQs (PA)

3 min read

Boris Johnson has been accused of being “an opportunist all his life” by Sir Keir Starmer as the pair clashed over a potential “circuit breaker” lockdown at Prime Minister’s Questions.

The Labour leader accused his rival of ignoring the science after the Sage advisory group recommended a two-week shuttering of the country to try and quash the spiralling coronavirus infection rate.

Sir Keir said: "On May 11, the Prime Minister said that the Government's Covid strategy - and I quote him - 'will be governed entirely by the science'.

"On September 21, the Government's own scientific advisers, Sage, gave very clear advice - they said 'a package of interventions including a circuit-breaker will be needed to prevent an exponential rise in cases'.

"Why did the Prime Minister reject that advice and abandon the science?"

The Prime Minister replied that he had been advised a "regional approach" to tackling Covid-19 will "bring down the virus."

And he hit back, saying: "But since he quotes the Sage advice I might just remind him that on page one it says that all the interventions considered have associated costs in terms of health and wellbeing and that policymakers will need to consider announcements and economic impacts and the associated harms alongside this epidemiological assessment.

"And the advice that I have today is that if we do the regional approach that commended itself to the House, and indeed to the right honourable gentleman on Monday, we can bring down the arc and we can bring down the virus.”

But Sir Keir replied: "I know that for someone who has been an opportunist all his life this is difficult to understand, but having read and considered the Sage advice I have genuinely concluded that a circuit-break is in the national interest - genuinely concluded.

"It is the failure of the Prime Minister's strategy that means tougher measures are now unavoidable. That is Sage's view. 

“Sage has advised that a circuit-breaker should act to reduce R below 1, should reset the incidence of disease to a lower level and should set the epidemic back by approximately 28 days or more.

"All three are vital and that is why Labour backs it. So can the Prime Minister tell us, what is his alternative plan to get R below 1?"

Referencing the comments by Labour’s shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth, who criticised a national lockdown in the Commons just hours before his leader called for a “circuit breaker”, the PM said: “Opportunism is the name of the game for the party opposite.”

He repeatedly said he wanted to avoid the “misery” of a national lockdown, but finished by saying: "I rule out nothing, of course, in combating the virus but we're going to do it with the local, regional approach that can drive down and will drive down the virus if it is properly implemented."

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