Keir Starmer op-ed: Government must prepare for a second wave

 Key lines:

  • This is a crucial point in the battle against Covid-19.
  • The government was too slow to act, and the hard truth is that their mistakes have come at a high cost. We’ve got the highest excess death rate in Europe, and the UK is predicted to have the worst recession of any of the OECD countries.
  • No one could have handled this perfectly and we’re not interested in simply casting blame, but what we need to see is ministers learning the lessons of their past mistakes.
  • We’ve seen precious little evidence of them doing that – and if we are to be fully prepared for the autumn and winter then time is running out.
  • We’ve got four weeks until schools go back in September. And they must go back. The government has had months to plan for this.
  • It is also clear that the government has got to sort out testing. What we’ve got simply isn’t up to the task yet.
  • People want clarity, clear communications, and a clear plan from the government.
  • August is a crucial month. There are six key things the government must get right:
  1. Reopening schools in September must be priority;
  2. Communicate with clarity to regain public trust;
  3. We need more support for those most at risk;
  4. Make rapid improvements to testing and contact tracing;
  5. We must make urgent preparations for the coming months; and
  6. We must fight for jobs, our businesses and our high streets.
  • Any steps the government makes to regain the trust of the British people will have Labour’s full support. This crisis is bigger than politics.
  • But if the government doesn’t use this summer wisely, focusing on driving down the rate of infection, Britain faces a long and bleak winter.


Easing lockdown restrictions

 Key lines:

  • We’re supportive of the government in that we want a gradual easing of lockdown. We want people back to work and we want pupils back to school.
  • But without an effective vaccine, a functioning test and trace system is the only way to safely fully reopen society.
    Right now, the Government’s approach is failing and people have lost confidence in the system.
    There are four things that need to be done:
    • First, tests need to be done quickly. We were promised a 24-hour turnaround for test results by the end of June but the numbers are nowhere near that and going in the wrong direction.
    • Second, the tracing system is not where it needs to be, falling from 90% in the early days of the scheme to around 75% a fortnight ago.
    • Third, we need to look at routine mass testing to reach the 70-80% of people with the virus who don’t show symptoms, starting with routine testing in care homes and for NHS staff, and moving to priority places like airports.
    • Finally, we need contact tracing and testing to be led by local teams who actually understand their local areas.


Reopening schools

Key lines:

 Reopening schools must be the number one priority.

  • This means the first thing is to make sure infections are low enough to ensure we can reopen schools safely, which is why we’ve said that the government needs to make tough decisions on whether other restrictions need to be reintroduced.
  • Second, we need to get Test and Trace up to scratch and working properly.
  • And third, we need to address many unanswered questions:
    • guidance for schools on what happens in the event of a local lockdown;
    • how children are going to get to school when many rely on public transport and where bubble groups aren’t possible; and
    • how the government plans to keep teachers safe.
  • We can’t afford the same mistake made in June when the Education Secretary made a big promise and then rolled back on it.
  • There are lots of worried teachers and parents – we need a clear plan from the government that they actually see through on.

Jobs, jobs, jobs launch

Key lines:

  • Britain faces a jobs crisis, and we’re calling on the Government to change course before it’s too late.
  • The Government has begun its one-size-fits all withdrawal of support for businesses who have furloughed their staff.
  • Every employer is starting to pay National Insurance and pension contributions for the hours an employee is on furlough, ramping up the cost to business of furloughing employees between now and October.
  • The government should be targeting support where it’s needed most, not withdrawing it in one fell swoop. For those worst hit by the crisis, this is the first stage of a python-like squeeze on jobs.
  • Labour has set out our five-point plan to put people first and intervene where it is needed. We need to save jobs, protect incomes and make it safe to work:


  1. Fight for jobs: by reforming the furlough scheme so that it supports jobs in the worst-hit sectors and targets aid to struggling industries.
  2. Back our businesses: by setting up a £1.7 billion fightback fund to prevent firms going under and save our high streets.
  3. Leave no-one behind: by providing additional support to areas forced into local lockdowns, supporting the self-employed and helping those left out of existing schemes.
  4. Keep workers safe: by protecting workers’ rights, boosting sick pay, making workplaces safe and giving our NHS and care services the resources to avoid a second wave.
  5. Drive job creation: by investing in infrastructure, accelerating progress towards a zero-carbon economy and increasing access to skills and training opportunities.



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