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Keir Starmer urges Boris Johnson to build 'national consensus' over coronavirus lockdown exit plans

Keir Starmer made the comments ahead of further talks with the PM

3 min read

Keir Starmer has urged Boris Johnson to build a "national consensus" over his plans for exiting the coronavirus lockdown.

The Labour leader said Downing Street must be "honest with the public" about plans for easing restrictions ahead of fresh talks between the two party leaders later this week.

It comes after the Prime Minister pledged to reveal further details about his strategy to "unlock the UK economy", with a TV address expected on Sunday.

Ministers have already spent the weekend consulting with business groups and trade unions in an effort to find support for a phased reopening of the economy.

But Sir Keir said that while his party would back a further extension of restrictions, he called on ministers to consider seven "core principles" ahead of any significant easing.

They include publishing a national plan to ensure adequate PPE is made available for key workers; setting a date for when the Government will hit its daily testing target of 250,000; and spell out when it will have recruited 50,000 people as part of a 'track-and-trace' scheme to contain the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, the party said ministers should give advance warning of any plan to ease restrictions to allow proper preparations to be put in place - including the ability to rapidly reintroduce the lockdown if infections began to increase.

Setting out the measures, the Labour leader said: "We want to support the Government to get this right and that is why we need a national consensus on what happens next.

"Our priority is protecting the public’s health and saving lives. That is why we supported the lockdown and again support the restrictions staying in place at this time.

"However, we need to be honest with the public about the challenges ahead. We are in this for the long haul. It is imperative that the Government is properly planning for what happens next and properly supporting our NHS and social care services.

He added: "Mistakes were made at the beginning of this crisis. The Government was slow to implement the lockdown, slow on testing and slow to get PPE to frontline workers. We need to learn from those mistakes.

"Labour is setting out seven core principles that need to be considered by the Government to ensure public services, businesses and people are supported and kept safe. People rightly need confidence it’s safe before they go back out to work, travel or use public services.

"When I was elected leader, I promised to act in the national interest and I meant it. Over the coming days and weeks, I will work constructively with the Government on these proposals to ensure we have the best possible response to this crisis."

Sir Keir is also calling for a national vaccines plan to set out how the Government will support efforts to manufacture and distribute a vaccine for the coronavirus.

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