Starmer: “Let’s be the first in the world to get our country vaccinated”

Sienna Rodgers

Keir Starmer will declare this evening – in response to the new lockdown in England – that he hopes, after being “the first country in the world to get the vaccine”, we will “be the first in the world to get our country vaccinated”.

In an address to the nation broadcast at 7pm on BBC One, the Labour leader will tell the country that a “new national effort to re-kindle the spirit of last March” is needed and he will urge people to “protect the NHS and save lives”.

He is set to reiterate Labour’s support for the lockdown and confirm that his party will vote for the restrictions in parliament. The House of Commons is being recalled on Wednesday to consider the new rules after they come into force.

“We will join in this national effort. Challenging the government where it is going wrong, standing up for families and businesses, and urging everyone to follow the new guidance,” Starmer will declare in his statement.

The Labour leader will also stress the need for the government to deliver on its vaccination programme, saying: “This is now a race between the virus and the vaccine. And if we pull together as a nation, we can win.”

More than 1.3 million people in the country have had their first dose of a Covid vaccine, and Boris Johnson has set a target of giving a first jab to everyone in the top four priority groups by the middle of February.

Around 13 million people are in these four priority groups. The top of the list includes people who live and work in care homes, people over the age of 80, and frontline health and social care workers – including NHS staff.

Next on the priority list are people over 75, and the fourth group comprises people aged over 70 and those classed as “clinically extremely vulnerable” who are also being asked to return to shielding during the lockdown.

Below is the full text of Keir Starmer’s address to the nation on the fresh lockdown in England announced by Boris Johnson on Monday evening.

Good evening. We are at another critical moment in our fight against coronavirus. I know how difficult another lockdown will be for families across Britain.

For millions who will have to juggle childcare with working from home. For young people pulled out of the classroom. For businesses that have been asked to close. And for our amazing key workers who have stepped up throughout this pandemic – asked to put their country first, once again.

And I know that after so much sacrifice and suffering you’re frustrated that we are back here again. Angry at the mistakes the government has made. And worried about the future.

There are serious questions for the government to answer. Why did they not act sooner? Why – after £22bn of taxpayers’ money – is the testing system still not working?

Why were families given so little time to plan for childcare and for schools closing? And why – once again – have businesses and millions of working people not been given the support they need?

We’ll keep asking those questions and fighting for proper support for businesses and families. But, whatever our quarrels with the government and with the Prime Minister, the country now needs us to come together.

The virus is out of control. Infections are rising sharply. More people are in hospital. And, tragically, more people are losing their loved ones.

At this darkest of moments, we need a new national effort to re-kindle the spirit of last March. To come together and to do everything possible to stay at home. To protect the NHS and save lives.

So Labour will support this lockdown. We will vote for it in parliament. We will join in this national effort. Challenging the government where it is going wrong. Standing up for families and businesses. And urging everyone to follow the new guidance.

The British people have sacrificed so much. But, thanks to the dedication and brilliance of our scientists, there is hope of a way out of this nightmare. Let’s recapture the spirit we saw at the start of this pandemic.

We now need the government to deliver for the British people. We now need a government that’s worthy of the British people. That means using this lockdown to establish a massive, immediate, and round-the-clock vaccination programme.

To deliver millions of doses a week by the end of the month in every village and town, every high street and every GP surgery.

We need our businesses and public services working hand in hand for the common good. We need an army of volunteers and to use every resource at our disposal.

This is now a race between the virus and the vaccine. And if we pull together as a nation, we can win. I pledge to do everything I can to help in this national mission.

We were the first country in the world to get the vaccine. Let’s be the first in the world to get our country vaccinated.

We need a new contract between the government and the British people: the country stays at home; the government delivers the vaccine.

I want to finish by talking directly to everyone who feels worn down and exhausted by the current situation. I know the next few weeks will be really hard for families who long to be together again. But we will get through this.

Because of our scientists, the dedication of our key workers and the strength of the British people. We will recover. We’ll rebuild. We’ll see each other again. And then we can forge the better future I know is possible. Thank you.

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