Keir Starmer says lockdown rules may need to be tightened in the next 24 hours
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Lockdown restrictions may need to be tightened in the next 24 hours, Keir Starmer has warned.
The Labour leader said the country had entered "the most serious stage" of the coronavirus pandemic "and that calls for the most serious of restrictions".
In a withering attack on Boris Johnson, Mr Starmer said the PM "simply isn't up to the job" and warned that indecision and delays to making decisions during the crisis had "cost lives".
Mr Starmer suggested nurseries could be shut if the rules were tightened, which have been allowed to continue operating despite closures of schools and colleges.
House viewings could also be axed, he said.
"So we're in this extraordinary situation where having got to at least as serious if not a more serious position than of March last year, we've got lesser restrictions in place and we need those in place as quickly as possible," Mr Starmer told reporters after a speech.
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Pressed further on restrictions, Mr Starmer said: "I think we are going to have to look in the next 24 hours or so, what are the other measures that could be put in place and hear from the scientists which of those they think would be the most effective."
"Then (we should) all pull together and support those measures if they are needed because the numbers are still – as everybody knows – heading in the wrong direction."
His latest intervention comes amid concern in Government that the lockdown rules are not being adhered to as infection rates continue to spiral.
England's chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, appealed directly to the public to "stay at home unless you absolutely have to" as the next few weeks will be the "worst weeks of the pandemic".
In his first major policy speech of the year, Mr Starmer urged the Government to "put families first" as he set out a string of demands to protect household incomes.
He called for a halt to planned council tax rises, saying households face a "£1.9 billion bombshell that lands a bill of around £90 on every family".
Mr Starmer also demanded pay rises for key workers, an extension to the evictions ban, and urged ministers not to axe the £20 uplift to Universal Credit in April.
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Accusing the Government of having the "wrong priorities", he said: "This is the Government that gave Dominic Cummings a £40,000 pay rise but won’t pay our carers a decent wage.
"This is the Government that wasted £22 billion of taxpayers’ money on a testing system that doesn’t work but now won’t find the money to support families.
"And this is the Government that sprayed money on private contracts that didn’t deliver but won’t give councils the support they need.
"That’s why I’m calling on the Government today to put families first during this lockdown.”
Mr Starmer also appealed for a legally enforceable right to furlough for working parents.
Parents are already eligible for furlough support if they cannot work due to caring responsibilities.
But this is at the employer's discretion, rather than being a legal entitlement.
The Labour leader called for a legally enforceable right to furlough for working parents
(Image: Getty Images)
“Working parents have been left once again to juggle childcare and work," he said.
“It’s hard on the kids, i t’s hard on the school staff a nd it’s tough on every parent.
“For those who can work at home, it’s difficult.
“But for those parents who can’t work from home or don’t have a partner to share the load, it can mean the difference between keeping their job or looking after their family.
“So the Government should go further to support working parents.
“By creating a legal, enforceable and immediate right for parents to request paid flexible furlough and by promoting that to all working parents to help them get through this lockdown ."