Sir Keir Starmer has made a televised address to the nation slamming the UK’s coronavirus testing system, in response to the Prime Minister’s statement last night.
The Labour leader’s speech was given a prime-time slot on BBC One this evening, 24 hours after Boris Johnson made a direct plea to the country to follow a host of new restrictions and stop the spread of Covid-19.
Sir Keir said a ‘Plan B’ is needed to help the economy recover from the pandemic and branded the Government’s testing system ‘a national scandal’.
He stressed that he supports new restrictions being brought in by the Government, but argued that help aimed at keeping people in employment also needs to be prioritised and said the UK having one of the highest death rates and worst recessions in the world was a ‘failure of government’.
In a five-minute speech, the leader of the opposition pointedly criticised Mr Johnson’s handling of the crisis, stating that while new restrictions ‘are now necessary, they were not inevitable’.
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Sir Keir said the increased restrictions are due to a ‘failure of Government’ and added: ‘Despite all the sacrifices and heroism of the British people, it’s clear we are not through this yet.
‘The picture presented by the Government’s medical advisers this week was stark and clear: Infections are rising. Hospital admissions are increasing. And we know from bitter experience where that could lead.’
Stressing that he supported the restrictions and that they ‘had’ to be introduced he said the public were not to blame for the second wave and called for an economic ‘Plan B’.
He added: ‘It makes no sense to bring in new restrictions at the same time as phasing out support for jobs and businesses.’
It is highly unusual for a leader of the opposition to address the nation live on television – something the Prime Minister has done three times since the pandemic began.
Sir Keir continued: ‘The return of this virus, and the return of restrictions, are not an act of God. They’re a failure of Government.
‘The British people have done everything asked of them.
‘But I’m afraid the Government has not.’
The Labour leader has repeatedly talked about supporting the Government over restrictions on coronavirus but this is not the first time he has criticised the testing system, which has been widely slammed by the public and experts in recent weeks.
Sir Keir said: ‘We shouldn’t have one of the highest death rates in the world, or one of the worst recessions.
‘It’s a national scandal that we still don’t have a testing system that works.
‘People shouldn’t have to travel hundreds of miles to get a test for their child, for themselves or for their relatives.’
Mr Johnson has regularly accused his opposite number of flip flopping in his support for the Government and criticised him for what he not backing those running the test and trace system.
The PM says Britain has tested more people than any other European country.
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