WATCH: Government “should have acted sooner”, says Labour as Covid deaths reach 100,000

Elliot Chappell

Rachel Reeves has argued that “on a number of occasions the government should have acted sooner” to protect lives in the pandemic after official records showed that more than 100,000 people in the UK have now died from coronavirus.

Speaking to Sky News following a Covid briefing held by Boris Johnson this evening, the Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster told viewers she hoped that the government would reflect on “what they’ve got right and what they’ve got wrong”.

Commenting on the government response to the pandemic, Reeves told those watching this evening: “For me it’s the slowness, not just at the beginning but throughout the virus, to confront the enormity of the situation.

“In March we should have locked down sooner. In the autumn when SAGE said that we needed a circuit break, there should have been a circuit break quickly, not after six weeks.

“And over Christmas, the government should have cut its losses sooner and accepted that we couldn’t have the coming together that we all wanted but we all understood was not possible.

“And so, on a number of occasions the government should have acted sooner to put in place the measures that were needed to protect those lives.”

The comments from Reeves followed those of Keir Starmer, who responded earlier today to reports of Covid deaths exceeding 100,000 to describe it as a “national tragedy and a terrible reminder of all that we have lost as a country”.

The Labour leader said: “We must never become numb to these numbers or treat them as just statistics. Every death is a loved one, a friend, a neighbour, a partner or a colleague. It is an empty chair at the dinner table.

“To all those that are mourning, we must promise to learn the lessons of what went wrong and build a more resilient country. That day will come and we will get there together.

“But for now we must remember those that we have lost and be vigilant in the national effort to stay at home, protect our NHS and vaccinate Britain.”

Public Health England figures recorded 50,000 coronavirus-related deaths on November 11th last year. That number has doubled in just 76 days as a further 1,631 deaths were recorded by officials in the daily Covid report today.

The Prime Minister told those tuning in to the televised briefing this evening that he took “full responsibility” for the government’s actions during the pandemic, but told the public that “we truly did everything we could”.

The Office for National Statistics said the UK passed the threshold January 7th, based on analysis of death certificates. Johnson refused to answer questions on how the UK has recorded the worst death toll in Europe and the fifth worst in the world.

More from LabourList