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Keir Starmer demands government publishes its coronavirus lockdown exit strategy this week

Keir Starmer said ministers must set out their plan for easing the lockdown.

3 min read

Keir Starmer has called on the Government to publish its plan for exiting the UK's coronavirus lockdown.

The Labour leader said the strategy must be revealed this week to give people hope that life will begin to normal as soon as possible.

Sir Keir set out his demand in a letter to Foreign Secrerary Dominic Raab, who is standing in for Boris Johnson as he continues to recuperate after being struck down by the deadly illness.

Mr Raab is expected to announce on Thursday that the lockdown, which began on 23 March, will remain in place for at least another three weeks.

In his letter, Sir Keir said that Labour will support that move, but added: "The question for Thursday therefore is no longer about whether the lockdown should be extended, but about what the Government’s position is on how and when it can be eased in due course and on what criteria that decision will be taken."

"Ministers have argued that now is not the time to talk about this. I profoundly disagree.

"Overcoming this crisis requires taking the British public with you. Millions of people have played their part and exceeded government assumptions about their willingness to make sacrifices and to stay at home in the national interest.

"In return, the Government needs to be open and transparent with the public about how it believes the lockdown will ease and eventually end, how this decision will be informed and what measures are being put in place to plan for this eventuality."

The Labour leader's remarks came after the Office Budget for Responsibility said the UK economy could shrink by 35% in the second quarter of 2020, with unemployment soaring by two million, as a result of the lockdown.

Sir Keir said: "We agree the measures need to remain in place, but to maintain morale and hope, people need a sense of what comes next.

"The silent pressures on communities across the country cannot be underestimated."

He said the Government must publish the criteria it will use when deciding when to ease the rules on social distancing, publish its exit strategy in time for Parliament sitting again next Monday, and set out which sectors of the economy are likely to see restrictions eased first.

The Labour leader added: "I understand that there is a lot of scientific advice, analysis and forecasting on the coronavirus. However, it is political decisions by ministers that will determine what happens next.

"At a time of national crisis, it is more important than ever that those decisions are taken swiftly and transparently."

But a government source rejected Sir Keir's call, saying: "Our strategy is focused on saving lives. We have been clear that all decisions will be guided by the scientific advice and data.

"Talk of an exit strategy before we have reached the peak risks confusing the critical message that people need to stay at home in order to protect our NHS and save lives."

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