John McDonnell has told the Prime Minister to “get off your backside and show some international leadership” in response to the spread of coronavirus, or Covid-19, worldwide.
The comment comes after repeated calls from Labour’s Shadow Chancellor for the government to work internationally with other countries to coordinate the response to the virus.
He has made the point previously that international cooperation has been crucial during other major global crises, such as the financial crash that took place in 2007/08.
McDonnell said: “Despite my repeated calls on four occasions in the last fortnight for the government to work internationally to co-ordinate a response to the coronavirus, there has been no leadership and no action from either the Prime Minister or the Chancellor. It seems Number 10 is following Donald Trump’s lead yet again.
“We are saying to Boris Johnson, bluntly, get off your backside and show some international leadership. That is what UK Prime Ministers of all political colours have traditionally done.
“So far, Johnson seems to have self-isolated himself from his international responsibilities. We are facing the risk of a global recession so we need global economic co-ordination and a global economic strategy as Labour secured in the last major crisis of 2007/8.”
McDonnell initially called for the government to work with other countries on social media two weeks ago, and his five-point economic plan that included measures to respond to the virus was published on March 2nd.
The pre-Budget speech from the MP for Hayes and Harlington called for the Chancellor to demonstrate “that there is a clear plan of action nationally and internationally”.
The UK’s response to the coronavirus moved from the ‘contain’ to ‘delay’ phase following a COBRA meeting yesterday, advising that people with mild symptoms self-isolate.
The Prime Minister has held back from taking more stringent action such as banning public meetings, as Scotland has, or closing schools and universities like the Republic of Ireland declared yesterday.
There are now 590 official cases in the UK, but the government’s chief scientific minister said that the true figure is actually likely to be between 5,000 and 10,000. There are more than 138,000 recorded cases worldwide.