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Keir Starmer demands 2-3 week 'circuit breaker' national lockdown across England – 'We must act now'

James Morris
·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·3-min read

Watch: Keir Starmer demands two to three-week 'circuit breaker' lockdown

  • Sir Keir Starmer calls for temporary national lockdown in England lasting up to three weeks

  • Labour leader challenges Boris Johnson to “act now” amid second surge of COVID infections and hospital admissions

  • He says “there’s no longer time to give PM benefit of the doubt”

  • Press conference marks change in approach from Starmer’s “constructive opposition” stance since taking over as party leader in April

  • Visit the Yahoo homepage for more stories

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called for a two to three-week “circuit breaker” national lockdown across England.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Starmer cited advice from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) that a circuit breaker could set back the virus by 28 days.

He said of Boris Johnson amid a second surge of COVID-19 infections and hospital admissions: “There’s no longer time to give this prime minister the benefit of the doubt.”

Starmer, appearing in front of slogans reading “a new leadership”, said the government has “lost control” of the virus and doesn’t have a “credible plan” to deal with it.

Sir Keir Starmer called for a 'circuit breaker' national lockdown at a press conference on Tuesday. (BBC)
Sir Keir Starmer called for a 'circuit breaker' national lockdown at a press conference on Tuesday. (BBC)

Calling for a circuit breaker, which Sage had recommended to the government last month, Starmer said: “This would not mean closing schools. But if this happens imminently, it can be timed to run across half-term to minimise disruption.”

He said only essential work and travel should be allowed during this period, with households banned from mixing and all pubs and restaurants shut.

It comes a day after Johnson introduced the three-tier local lockdown system for England.

Just hours after that announcement, one of his chief advisers, Prof Chris Whitty, cast doubt over the effectiveness of the tiered plan while stood next to Johnson at a Downing Street press conference.

Starmer went on: “Introducing these kind of restrictions is not something anyone wants to do. This was not inevitable. But it is now necessary if we are to protect the NHS, fix testing and get control of the virus.

“I also want to say this directly to the PM. You know that the science backs this approach. You know that the restrictions you’re introducing won’t be enough.

“You know that a circuit break is needed now to get this virus under control. You can’t keep delaying this and come back to the House of Commons every few weeks with another plan that won’t work.

“So act now. Break the cycle.”

Read more: 'He needs to be more than just competent': What Labour MPs think of Keir Starmer so far

Johnson is yet to respond to Starmer’s intervention.

Six months in to his leadership of the party, the press conference was a marked changed in approach from Starmer.

Since taking over from Jeremy Corbyn at the peak of the first wave of the pandemic, Starmer has largely kept to an approach of providing “constructive opposition”.

However, his approach has become increasingly combative in recent weeks.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street for the weekly cabinet meeting, currently being held at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), in London, England, on October 13, 2020. (Photo by David Cliff/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson pictured on Tuesday. (David Cliff/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

This was evident on Monday, after the PM introduced the three-tier local lockdown system for England, with Starmer declaring Johnson lost control of the virus “long ago” and is losing public confidence.

Last week, Yahoo News UK spoke to Labour MPs for their thoughts on Starmer’s performance as leader so far.

While one, Meg Hillier, said he is the “man of the moment” after completely closing the gap with Johnson’s Conservatives in the opinion polls, another, Richard Burgon, warned he needs to do far more.

“We can’t just critique [Johnson’s government] on competence, we need to distinguish their values from our values. I don’t think we’ll be able to win a general election on the question of competence alone.”

Watch: How will England's three-tier local lockdown system work?

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