Keir Starmer warns return to three-tiered lockdown system without fixing NHS Test and Trace is 'risky'

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer responds to Prime Minister Boris Johnson's statement to the House o

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer responds to prime minister Boris Johnson's statement to the House of Commons - Credit: PA

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has warned that returning to a three-tiered system without fixing England's test and trace system is "risky".

Responding to Boris Johnson’s statement on the loosening of lockdown restriction to come into effect on December 2, Sir Keir said: “The vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel, the question today is how do we get there and protect lives and livelihoods along the way?

“The prime minister proposes a return to the three-tier system. That’s risky, because the previous three-tier system didn’t work.

“Tier 1 areas drifted to Tier 2, almost all Tier 2 areas ended up in Tier 3 and those in Tier 3 couldn’t see a way out and we ended up in national lockdown.

“That was the sad reality of the tiered system before and nobody wants a repeat of that.”

Sir Keir then raised concerns over the test and trace system.

“Now I know the PM will talk about increased testing, mass testing – that’s welcome – but it’s only part of the story because the other two parts: trace and isolate, are not fit for purpose,” he said.

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“SAGE advised, and continues to advise, that for trace and isolate to be effective the percentage of contacts traced needs to be about 80%. It’s currently nowhere near that level, it’s never been near that level, and the figures are not getting any better.

“The likelihood of getting the virus under control, when 120,000 who should be self-isolating are moving around their communities, is very low.”

He added: “Many people will be forgiven for thinking that the PM’s given up on trace and isolate and is about to abandon that scheme altogether to reach out for a different scheme, the mass testing.”

Johnson replied: "I’m grateful to (Sir Keir) for such support as he felt able to offer at this stage.

“I’m aware that his support is one of those things that (is) kind of now you see it, now you don’t.

“But never mind, I’ll take it while it seems to be there, at least temporarily and look forward to further conversations with him next week.”

On Monday, the prime minister announced that England would return to a three-tiered system of localised lockdowns that will see hospitality and sporting venues remain open in all tiers with certain conditions.

"It is right that the balance of the impact of these should continue to be tough," Johnson exclaimed.

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