Missing chance for circuit breaker has put “Christmas at risk”, says Ashworth

© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Jonathan Ashworth has declared that the government “put Christmas at risk” by failing to implement a national ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown over the October half-term as Labour recommended.

In a Times Radio interview this morning, the Shadow Health Secretary said the chances of more than six people being able to meet indoors for Christmas depends on what the government does next to “get on top of this virus”.

Ashworth said: “I think because they’ve missed this window of opportunity over the half-term I’m worried that what we’ll see is deeper, more drastic lockdown action throughout November and December, which sadly probably does put Christmas at risk.

“The government have got to do something quickly to save Christmas for everybody because we want people to have a family Christmas, don’t we? I think it would be awful if people don’t get that.”

Keir Starmer had called on the government to implement a short, sharp ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown over the October half-term to ensure that the country did not “sleep walk into a long and bleak winter”.

While Downing Street rejected the policy in favour of their tiered local lockdown framework, a similar two-week national lockdown is currently in place in Wales and set to end on November 9th.

On the government’s much-criticised test and trace programme, the Shadow Health Secretary told Times Radio: “You can keep a reasonable grip of the virus if you’ve got a test and trace system that works…

“If you lose control of testing that means you lose control of tracing, and when you lose control of tracing, you lose control of the virus. And sadly, here we are, all these months later where the government quite evidently has lost control of the virus.”

The newest Test and Trace figures released last week revealed that the programme had hit record lows, with just 59.6% of coronavirus “close contacts” being reached by contact tracers and only 7.4% of test results being delivered in 24 hours.

Ashworth also described Labour’s failure to deal with antisemitism as the most “shameful period in our history” ahead of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report being released.

The Shadow Health Secretary said: “That was a shameful period in our history and we have to be clear that we are never going back to that and we will do everything we can to repair relations with the Jewish community.”

The EHRC launched an investigation in May 2019 into “whether The Labour Party has unlawfully discriminated against, harassed or victimised people because they are Jewish”. Its findings will be released shortly.

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