PMQs: Boris Johnson accused of being ‘blind to the risks’ of easing lockdown

Keir Starmer in the House of Commons. Photograph: Parliament TV.

Keir Starmer in the House of Commons. Photograph: Parliament TV. - Credit: Archant

Boris Johnson has been accused of being 'blind to the risks' of easing lockdown during Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs).

Boris Johnson at Prime Minister's Questions. Photograph: Parliament TV.

Boris Johnson at Prime Minister's Questions. Photograph: Parliament TV. - Credit: Archant

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said people flocking to Bournemouth beach and other seaside towns last week showed the government had eased the lockdown too quickly.

He said that a remark last week in the Commons showed Johnson had been too 'flippant' about addressing concerns around his plan.

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Starmer said: 'Last week the member for Hove (Peter Kyle) asked the prime minister how can seaside towns be expected to cope with likely influx of visitors to beaches and parks during the hot weather?

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'The prime minister replied, 'show some guts'. Two days later Bournemouth beach was closed with 500,000 visitors, a major incident was declared. Does the prime minister now regret being so flippant?'

Defending the decision, Johnson said opening public spaces like beaches and parks were part of Number 10's 'careful plan' to reboot the economy.

'I was making it absolutely clear that as we go forward, [as part] our cautious plan for opening up the economy, it is very, very important that people who represent seaside communities where UK tourist will want to go should be as welcoming as they can be,' Johnson said.

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The opposition leader also claimed the government acted too slow in implementing a lockdown in Leicester after a spike in Covid-19 cases there and withheld vital testing data from the local council, which was in charge of the shutdown.

'One of the problems in Leicester is that the local authority only had half of the data. They had data for Pillar one Covid tests - that's NHS, care workers, and tests in hospitals. They didn't have pillar two tests - the wider tests in the community.'

He added: 'What that meant is that the local authorities thought there were 80 positive tests over the last fortnight when the real figure was 944. The local authority was only given the real figure last Thursday.'

'There are now real fears of further local lockdowns across the country. Can the prime minister give a cast-iron guarantee today that no other local authority will ever be put in that position again?'

Johnson insisted his government had 'acted decisively' to 'put on the brakes', prompting Starmer to say there are real 'concerns' about the lockdown lifting 'without an app, without clear data for local authorities or the world-beating system we were promised'.

He continued: 'I support the easing of restrictions but unlike the prime minister, I'm not blind to the risks and I don't think anybody else should be.'

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