Labour leader Keir Starmer has lashed out at UK MPs for a reluctance to sign off on the country’s lockdown “exit strategy” while Prime Minister Boris Johnson is at his country residence Chequers, recuperating from COVID-19.
“I think that throughout this they've struggled with taking decisions quickly enough... It feels as though they've been in a position probably for a week or 10 days now where it's been difficult for the Government to make big decisions. And I think there's a bit of that lying behind this as well,” said Starmer, speaking on the BBC's Coronavirus Newscast podcast on Thursday night.
Referring to the actions of Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who has been deputizing for the Prime Minister, Starmer added:
“I suspect, although I don't know, that Dominic Raab is just reluctant - he probably does know that it's time for an exit strategy - but he's probably reluctant to sign it off without the Prime Minister and I think there's a bit of that in the mix.”
Earlier, UK Ministers revealed the country’s lockdown “exit strategy” would not be unveiled for at least two weeks, as Transport Secretary Grant Shapps suggested medical and scientific advisers have been asked to present their options in a fortnight.
“We've said now that this three-week period will contain a review by the scientists at the end of this month, so that's actually only two weeks away, whilst they'll be reviewing this. And I hope we'll be in a position to provide, well I know we'll be in a position to provide, greater clarity,” the minister said on LBC radio.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon chimed in, insisting there was a need to “treat the public like grownups”, as she vowed to unveil her “framework” for exiting the current lockdown next week.
“I'm not going to set out next week the date on which lockdown will be lifted. What I'm going to try to do is set out the decision-making framework that we're operating in, so that we are treating the public like grown-ups that they are,” said Sturgeon on BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
'Light at the End of the Tunnel'
On Thursday, announcing at Downing Street that the restrictions in place in the UK due to the coronavirus pandemic would be extended for at least another three weeks, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said there was “light at the end of the tunnel”, but rejected calls for an “exit strategy” to be unveiled now.
“We are being as open as we responsibly can at this stage,” he said, offering five criteria for when restrictions might begin to be eased.
These are confirmation that the NHS will not be overwhelmed, a steady drop in the death rate, proof of transmission at a manageable level, wide scale testing and PPE available and lowered threat of a “second peak”.
“Overall, we still don't have the infection rate down as far as we need to… Any change to our social distancing measures now would risk a significant increase in the spread of the virus… If we rush to relax the measures that we have in place we would risk wasting all the sacrifices and all the progress that has been made,” said Raab.