Labour calls for “national effort” to prevent fresh UK-wide lockdown

Elliot Chappell

Labour has called for a “national effort” to prevent a fresh UK-wide Covid lockdown and blamed the recent increase in the number of coronavirus cases on “incompetence and failure” by the government.

Commenting after a coronavirus briefing delivered by the government’s medical and scientific officers this morning, Jonathan Ashworth has reiterated the party’s call for an emergency COBRA meeting to ensure urgent action.

Chief medical officer Chris Whitty told the public today that the UK has “turned a corner” for the worse in its fight against the pandemic, and warned that the country is on course for up to 50,000 new daily cases by mid-October.

Responding to this latest update on coronavirus from the government, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary said: “The UK’s top scientists have presented a grim picture about the rise in coronavirus cases.

“This rapid spike in infections was not inevitable, but a consequence of the government’s incompetence and failure to put in place an adequate testing system.

“The Prime Minister is making a statement later this week, but Labour’s priority is that there must be a national effort to prevent another national lockdown.

“The government must do what it takes to prevent another lockdown, which would cause unimaginable damage to our economy and people’s wellbeing.”

The chief medical officer told the public this morning that they should be prepared for Covid-related restrictions across the country over the next six months as he declared that “the seasons are against us”.

Whitty added that the UK is now entering flu season. He explained that this helps respiratory diseases to thrive, which is likely to favour the virus in a similar way to how autumn and winter see an increase in flu cases.

Ashworth added: “We need an effective testing and tracing system with support for people to isolate. When testing breaks down we can’t track this virus and it quickly gets out of control.

“We are also calling for a COBRA of the nations and regions so that the government acts with the urgency this demands.”

Keir Starmer last week joined other political leaders and called for an emergency COBRA meeting to “update the country on the measures the government is taking to keep the virus under control, including to fix testing”.

The Labour leader did the rounds on the Sunday politics shows at the weekend and told viewers that the Labour Party would support “whatever measure the government takes” on restrictions to bring down the rate of transmission.

London mayor Sadiq Khan told LBC Radio last week that there has not been a COBRA meeting since May 10th and revealed that he had not had any contact from Prime Minister Boris Johnson since then.

The mayor has said that it is “increasingly likely” lockdown restrictions will soon be needed to slow the spread of coronavirus in London, and called an emergency meeting of council leaders in the capital.

Members of the government’s scientific advisory group for emergencies recently suggested a two-week national lockdown, but described it as a ‘circuit break’ because the measures would not be as stringent as a full lockdown.

The chief medical officer today cited data from the Office for National Statistics during the briefing, declaring that around 70,000 people in the UK are infected with Covid and that about 6,000 are getting the infection each day.

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