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Jeremy Corbyn says coronavirus lockdown 'the right response' as Boris Johnson's plan wins business and union backing

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

4 min read

Boris Johnson's coronavirus lockdown of Britain has won the cautious backing of Labour, businesses and trade unions.

Jeremy Corbyn said the Prime Minister was "right to call for people to stay at home" as he pressed the Government to do more to help workers affected by the shutdown.

The comments come after Boris Johnson announced a dramatic series of restrictions on normal life in Britain in a bid to halt the spread of the disease and ease the strain on the NHS.

Measures include a the closure of non-essential shops for at least three weeks, shutting down gatherings of more than two people, and permitting only one trip out of the house per day, either alone or with family members.

Under the plan, which will be enforced by the police, people will only be able to leave their homes to shop for "basic necessities, as infrequently as possible".

The only other reasons someone can leave their home will be for "medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person", the Prime Minister said, or to travel to and from work "where this is absolutely necessary".

Reacting to the televised address, Mr Corbyn said: "This is the right response to the coronavirus pandemic, and one we have been calling for."
The Labour leader added: "There now needs to be clear guidance to employers and workers about which workplaces should close – and the Government must close the loopholes to give security to all workers, including the self-employed, as well as renters and mortgage holders.
"We welcome these moves and will be working to ensure everybody has the protection and security they need.”

Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey urged Brits to "play their part" and vowed his party would work to "support the most vulnerable".

"Many people will be anxious about the steps the government has taken, but it is the right decision to restrict our normal way of life to tackle this crisis," he said. 

“We must do all we can to stop the spread of this virus and I urge people to play their part by following the measures that have been set out, and not risk their own or others' health and wellbeing by ignoring these."

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the restrictions would be "difficult" and were "unprecedented".

But she told the country: "Stay at home. That is the message I gave yesterday and I am reinforcing that message now."


Trade unions which are normally highly critical of the Government also threw their weight behind the lockdown, with Unite general secretary Len McCluskey saying Mr Johnson's statement "illustrates the gravity of the situation".

He added: "This is a national health emergency and every resource, business and community in the country must be laser-focused, pulling together to do what needs to be done to protect public health.

"The message to employers is clear - be responsible, help workers be part and parcel of the essential efforts to support the nation. Keep workers and their families safe. That means turn to the Government's job retention scheme to pay wages to keep households afloat. Please, do not sack workers - use the mechanisms that we have persuaded this government to bring in to avert mass hardship.

"But I also say to the Government, you are very aware that there are very many millions of people in this country with insecure employment and wages. They need your urgent assistance. They desperately want to heed this clear public health message but they need to know that the awful false choice between health and hardship has been removed."

Dave Prentis, general secretary of the Unison trade union urged the public to "abide by the rules".

He added: "Irresponsible behaviour will spread the virus and place an intolerable burden on the NHS.

"Health workers are on the front line trying to save lives. By staying home we can all do our bit and help keep them safe too."


Business groups also signalled their support for the strict curbs on the movement of people. 

CBI director general Dame Carolyn Fairbairn - whose organisation represents large employers - said: "Protecting the public will protect businesses in the long run.

"These latest measures will of course present great challenges, disrupting daily lives and the normal run of business. But we all owe it to each other to act responsibly, both people and businesses.

"The economic support the Government is providing and the determination of firms to support their employees mean together that the right action can be taken to protect lives and livelihoods."

The announcement from the Prime Minister comes after the Government passed all stages of their emergency Coronavirus Bill, handing ministers new powers to deal with the crisis, through all of its stages in the House of Commons.

Ministers have promised that the two-year legislation will be reviewed every six months, with powers only used "when strictly necessary".

The legislation will now go before the House of Lords for further scrutiny.

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