Lockdown extension inevitable unless failing test-and-trace system fixed, Keir Starmer says

Labour leader warns 2 December will otherwise be ‘a review date not an end date’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Sunday 01 November 2020 11:00 GMT
Second lockdown extension inevitable unless failing test-and-trace system fixed, says Starmer says

An extension to the second lockdown is inevitable unless the failing test-and-trace system is fixed, Keir Starmer says.

The Labour leader said 2 December would be “a review date not an end date” if Boris Johnson failed to use the four-week shutdown to trace infected Covid-19 cases competently.

Sir Keir said it would be better to keep schools open, even at the price of a longer lockdown, adding: “I say keep schools open and manage the risk.”

On test-and-trace, he warned: “It’s been busted for months so, use the time to fix it, or otherwise we will be back in this cycle for months and months.”

And he added: “There will be no effective exit on 2 December unless the government uses this time to fix test, trace and isolate.” 

The comments cut the odds on a longer lockdown – coming soon after Michael Gove said it would only be “reviewed” on its scheduled end date, despite Mr Johnson insisting it was time-limited.

Mark Walport, a member of the Sage advisory group of scientists, warned the lockdown could be longer than the first, saying: “It’s obviously a possibility, yes.”

Earlier, Mr Gove denied the government’s regional three-tier approach had been “a failure” – insisting Covid-19 had spread faster than anyone had anticipated just a few weeks ago.

Asked about the Sage recommendation for a two-week “circuit break – made way back on 21 September – the Cabinet Office minister claimed: “It was not necessary at that point.”

But Sir Keir told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show: “Everybody has seen the figures, the infection rates, the admission rates and tragically the death rates – and that's why, three weeks ago, we called for a circuit-break.

“Now, at that stage, the government rejected it out of hand, ridiculed it, now only to do precisely the same thing – but there's a cost to that delay.

“The lockdown now will be longer, it'll be harder, we've just missed half term and there's a very human cost to this.”

“On the day that Sage recommended a circuit-break, the daily death rate was 11. Yesterday it was 326, so there's a very human cost to this, but the measures are necessary.”

Sir Keir also revealed he had not spoken with Jeremy Corbyn since the decision to suspend him from the Labour Party on Thursday, for refusing to accept the damning equality watchdog’s report in the antisemitism scandal.

He again insisted there was no need for an internal civil war and that he had not wanted the suspension to happen – but the party had been left with no choice.

The Labour leader ducked a question about whether he wanted Mr Corbyn to be reinstated, saying it was inviting him to interfere in the disciplinary process, but argued members backed the action so far.  

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in