Keir Starmer: UK government was too slow to act over coronavirus

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will take on the first secretary of state, Dominic Raab, in the first

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will take on the first secretary of state, Dominic Raab, in the first round of PMQs since Easter. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA. - Credit: PA

Labour's leader has argued that the UK was too slow to respond to the coronavirus outbreak, and has not learned quickly enough from other countries.

'I think that some of the decisions made in the last few weeks were too slow and didn't learn quickly enough from other countries, let's not repeat that,' Starmer told the BBC.

There have already been more than 12,000 deaths in British hospitals, but that number could rocket when other deaths - including in care homes - are included.

Starmer said Labour supported the lockdown measures but said the government must 'maintain morale and hope' by being upfront about an exit strategy.

'Overcoming this crisis requires taking the British public with you,' he said. 'The government needs to be open and transparent... The silent pressures on communities across the country cannot be underestimated.'

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Starmer had earlier called for the government's review not to look at whether or not the lockdown should be extended, but what happens longer term.

He said: '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.

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'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.'

But the government insisted decisions would be guided by scientific advice and data, and that no decisions should be made before the peak of the coronavirus.

'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 (National Health Service) and save lives,' a source said.

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