Sir Keir Starmer has called on ministers to publish the UKs exit strategy from the coronavirus lockdown, as he said the severe restrictions have “exacerbated existing inequalities” across the country.
It is expected that senior cabinet ministers and officials will be briefed on findings from the governments Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) into the effectiveness social distancing measures in curbing the spread of covid-19.
In a letter to the foreign secretary Dominic Raab, who is deputising for the Boris Johnson as he recovers from a coronavirus infection at his countryside residence Chequers, Sir Keir says Labour will support the governments extension to the lockdown.
But, he added: “The question for Thursday therefore is no longer about whether the lockdown should be extended, but about what the governments position is on how and when it can be eased in due course and on what criteria that decision will be taken.”
“Ministers have argued that now is not the time to talk about this. I profoundly disagree. Overcoming this crisis requires taking the British public with you. Millions of people have played their part and exceeded government assumptions about their willingness to make sacrifices and to stay at home in the national interest.
“In return, the government needs to be open and transparent with the public about how it believes the lockdown will ease and eventually end, how this decision will be informed and what measures are being put in place to plan for this eventuality.”
Sir Keir also warned the “silent pressures” on communities across the UK cannot be underestimated, and said “to maintain morale and hope” the public must be given a sense of what comes next.
“Many will be struggling with their mental health as well as other health conditions that may not receive the attention they normally would without the virus,” he added. “This lockdown is not affecting people equally. In fact, it has exacerbated existing inequalities in our country.
“A family living in an overcrowded flat will have particular challenges. And it is hard to imagine the daily horror of someone trapped in a home with his or her abuser. The government has a duty to do what it can to alleviate these pressures on people.”
A government source responded: “Our strategy is focused on saving lives. We have been clear that all decisions will be guided by the scientific advice and data. Talk of an exit strategy before we have reached the peak risks confusing the critical message that people need to stay at home in order to protect our NHS and save lives.”