Press "Enter" to skip to content

Labour urges Government to publish exit strategy this week

The new Labour leader said his party will support expending the coronavirus lockdown

The new Labour leader said his party will support expending the coronavirus lockdown

The new Labour leader said his party will support expending the coronavirus lockdown

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has urged the Government to publish its exit strategy from the Covid-19 lockdown this week.

In a letter to Dominic Raab, who is deputising for Boris Johnson, Sir Keir confirmed that Labour would support the Government if, as is expected, it extends the lockdown later this week.

But he said: ‘The question for Thursday therefore is no longer about whether the lockdown should be extended, but about what the Government’s 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 warned the ‘silent pressures’ on communities across the UK ‘cannot be underestimated’, and said that to maintain morale and hope ‘people need a sense of what comes next’.

He urged Mr Raab to commit to setting out the criteria the Government will use to inform how and when it intends to ease the lockdown; to publish the exit strategy now or in the coming week; and to outline the sectors and core public services that are most likely to see restrictions eased.

In a letter to Dominic Raab (front and centre), who is deputising for Boris Johnson, Sir Keir confirmed that Labour would support the Government if, as is expected, it extends the lockdown later this week

In a letter to Dominic Raab (front and centre), who is deputising for Boris Johnson, Sir Keir confirmed that Labour would support the Government if, as is expected, it extends the lockdown later this week

In a letter to Dominic Raab (front and centre), who is deputising for Boris Johnson, Sir Keir confirmed that Labour would support the Government if, as is expected, it extends the lockdown later this week

Labour’s call comes as the Government faces mounting pressure to set out how and when it plans to lift the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. No precise strategy has yet been announced.

A Government source said: ‘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.’

Sir Keir Starmer’s letter in full: 

Dear Dominic,

While the Prime Minister is recuperating, I am writing to you in your capacity as First Secretary of State.

First of all, would you please pass on my best wishes to the Prime Minister on his recovery when you next speak to him. I agreed wholeheartedly with his praise for the job the doctors, nurses and other NHS staff have done in caring for him and so many others during this outbreak. They have been a credit to the country.

As I have said before, under my leadership, the Labour Party’s intention is to work constructively with the government on managing this crisis and helping to protect people’s lives and livelihoods. It is clear that the government intends to extend the lockdown when the review date comes this Thursday. I can confirm today that we will support this decision, as we supported the introduction of the lockdown in March.

The question for Thursday therefore is no longer about whether the lockdown should be extended, but about what the government’s 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.

We agree the measures need to remain in place, but to maintain morale and hope, people need a sense of what comes next. The silent pressures on communities across the country cannot be underestimated. 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. For some it will be heightened concerns about their jobs or how they will make ends meet. For others the challenge will be loneliness and separation from loved ones, illness or losing someone to this terrible disease.

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.

I am therefore writing to urge that on Thursday you commit to the following:

Any exit strategy will only be effective if the government puts the necessary planning, investment and infrastructure in place early. We would be keen to discuss this with the government at the earliest opportunity. Whatever the preferred option, it seems obvious to us testing and contact tracing will have to play a huge part. Given the difficulties the government is experiencing now ramping up to its 25,000 tests per day by mid-April, it shows why planning is needed. Or on the question of a vaccine, if this is the government’s priority, it must start preparation now to put in place a comprehensive national vaccine programme. We cannot repeat mistakes that have already been made on testing and access to protective equipment.

I understand that there is a lot of scientific advice, analysis and forecasting on the coronavirus. However, it is political decisions by ministers that will determine what happens next. At a time of national crisis, it is more important than ever that those decisions are taken swiftly and transparently. I hope you will give this request serious consideration and I would welcome the opportunity to discuss it with you further.

I am making a copy of this available to the public.

Yours sincerely,

Keir Starmer MP 

Leader of the Labour Party

UK economy could shrink by a THIRD and TWO MILLION could lose jobs if coronavirus lockdown lasts three months, government watchdog warns – as ministers fear terrified public will not leave their homes and return to normal life even if they ease curbs

By James Tapsfield, Stephen Matthews and Martin Robinson for MailOnline

The economy faces shrinking by more than a third this quarter with two million people made jobless as coronavirus wreaks havoc, the government’s watchdog warned today.

Shocking analysis from the Office for Budget Responsibility underlines the trade-offs being made to combat the deadly disease by putting the country into lockdown. 

It warns curbs staying in place for three months will slash GDP by 35 per cent, with unemployment soaring to 10 per cent and the government’s deficit hitting £273billion – the highest level since the Second World War. 

The watchdog ominously said it was assumed ‘for now’ there will not be any fundamental economic damage, and much of the crash will be unwound as pent-up demand is unleashed. However, the resulting 13 per cent drop year-on-year is still worse than anything in the last century. 

Responding to the chilling scenario – which emerged as the IMF predicted the worst global downturn since the Great Depression in 1929 – Chancellor Rishi Sunak said ‘people should know there is hardship ahead’.

At the Downing Street briefing tonight, he said the UK was facing ‘tough times and there will be more to come’.

But he said the effects would be temporary and he expected a ‘bounce back’, and pointed to the government’s massive bailout plans. ‘We are not going to stand by and let this happen,’ he said.

The apocalyptic figures emerged after Dominic Raab moved to quash the idea of an imminent loosening, with the UK now facing restrictions until at least May 7.

But there is growing alarm about the potential death toll from economic misery, with life expectancy set to take a major hit. Doctors have also warned that suspending all non-urgent NHS operations to focus on coronavirus cases means more cancer and heart disease patients will die.

The Cabinet is divided between ‘hawks’ and ‘doves’ over whether to push to ease the lockdown soon, with some saying the public is obeying social distancing too well and must be urged to keep working where possible.

But concerns have been raised that it is impossible to lift the curbs at the moment anyway because the public is so strongly in favour of them staying in place, and would simply refuse to go back to normal. 

To underline the sense of drift the full Cabinet meeting was cancelled today for the second week running, as Boris Johnson recuperates from the disease at Chequers.  

In other developments on another chaotic day of crisis:

  • The IMF has said it expects the global economy to shrink 3 per cent this year – far worse than its 0.1 per cent dip after the credit crunch, but growth should rebound to 5.8 per cent in 2021. The UK is forecast to take a 6.5 per cent hit this year, while Italy could see a drop of 9.1 per cent; 
  • A total of 406 deaths involving Covid-19 in England and Wales registered up to April 3 occurred outside of hospitals, according to provisional figures from the Office for National Statistics; 
  • Nicola Sturgeon has vented anger at reports PPE has been diverted from Scottish care homes to English ones, saying she ‘will not stand by and be treated unfairly’; 
  • Teachers are ‘disturbed’ by ‘unhelpful’ speculation that schools and colleges will reopen soon amid the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the largest education union in Europe; 
  • No10 chief adviser Dominic Cummings has returned to work in Downing Street after going into self-isolation when Mr Johnson tested positive for coronavirus; 
  • Boris Johnson is not taking any phone calls or receiving official papers as he recuperates from coronavirus at Chequers, Downing Street said; 
  • Government advisers criticised the ‘all or nothing’ approach to lockdown and said there is no evidence that sunbathing presents a transmission risk;
  • It was revealed the UK has missed three chances to participate in an EU scheme to buy huge quantities of personal protective equipment (PPE);
  • Europe took its first tentative steps towards a return to normality as some countries re-opened businesses
The OBR revealed grim estimates for what could happen to the economy if lockdown goes on for three months, and is then partially lifted for another three months. An eye-watering 35 per cent crash in GDP during the second quarter would be partially offset by a rebound in the rest of the year due to pent-up demand and government bailouts (left). Meanwhile, the spike in unemployment would take much longer to unwind (right)

The OBR revealed grim estimates for what could happen to the economy if lockdown goes on for three months, and is then partially lifted for another three months. An eye-watering 35 per cent crash in GDP during the second quarter would be partially offset by a rebound in the rest of the year due to pent-up demand and government bailouts (left). Meanwhile, the spike in unemployment would take much longer to unwind (right)

The OBR revealed grim estimates for what could happen to the economy if lockdown goes on for three months, and is then partially lifted for another three months. An eye-watering 35 per cent crash in GDP during the second quarter would be partially offset by a rebound in the rest of the year due to pent-up demand and government bailouts (left). Meanwhile, the spike in unemployment would take much longer to unwind (right) 

The estimated 35 per cent GDP reduction in the second quarter this year is offset by rises in the rest of the year as pent-up demand is unleashed, but the resulting 13 per cent annual dip (shown in red on the chart above) would still be worse than the First World War or Great Depression

The estimated 35 per cent GDP reduction in the second quarter this year is offset by rises in the rest of the year as pent-up demand is unleashed, but the resulting 13 per cent annual dip (shown in red on the chart above) would still be worse than the First World War or Great Depression

The estimated 35 per cent GDP reduction in the second quarter this year is offset by rises in the rest of the year as pent-up demand is unleashed, but the resulting 13 per cent annual dip (shown in red on the chart above) would still be worse than the First World War or Great Depression

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was in Whitehall today as he oversees the government's response with  Boris Johnson still recovering at Chequers

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was in Whitehall today as he oversees the government's response with  Boris Johnson still recovering at Chequers

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was in Whitehall today as he oversees the government’s response with  Boris Johnson still recovering at Chequers

The OBR backed the government’s extraordinary bailout measures, including covering 80 per cent of the wages of staff who are ‘furloughed’ by companies, up to a ceiling of £2,500 a month.  

Despite the massive bill it says the ‘measures should help limit the long-term damage to the economy and public finances – the costs of inaction would certainly have been higher’.

World economy faces worst slump since Great Depression, says IMF  

The world economy is facing its worst year since the Great Depression of the 1930s, the IMF warned today.

The fund said it expects the global economy to shrink 3 per cent – far worse than its 0.1 per cent dip in the Great Recession year of 2009 – before rebounding in 2021 with 5.8 per cent growth. 

The ‘best case’ scenario would see $9trillion wiped off global GDP over this year and next – greater than the size of Germany and Japan combined. 

It acknowledged that prospects for a rebound next year are clouded by uncertainty.

The bleak assessment represents a breathtaking downgrade by the IMF. In its previous forecast in January, before Covid-19 emerged as a grave threat to public health and economic growth worldwide, the international lending organisation had forecast moderate global growth of 3.3 per cent this year. 

‘The world has been put in a great lockdown,’ the IMF’s chief economist, Gita Gopinath, told reporters. ‘This is a crisis like no other.’ 

The watchdog stressed it is for ministers to decide how long the lockdown should last.

But it set out estimates for the impact based on a three-month lockdown, followed by another three-month period when they are partially lifted. 

‘Real GDP falls 35 per cent in the second quarter, but bounces back quickly,’ the report said. 

‘Unemployment rises by more than 2million to 10 per cent in the second quarter, but then declines more slowly than GDP recovers. 

‘Policy measures support households and companies’ finances through the shock.

‘Public sector net borrowing increases by £218 billion in 2020-21 relative to our March budget forecast (to reach £273 billion or 14 per cent of GDP), before falling back close to forecast in the medium term. 

‘That would be the largest single-year deficit since the Second World War.’ 

The OBR calculations assume that most of the 35 per cent drop will be offset by a bounce back in the rest of the year. But it added: ‘The resulting 13 per cent fall in annual GDP in 2020 would comfortably exceed any of the annual falls around the end of each world war or in the financial crisis ‘

Responding to the OBR figures, Mr Sunak said it was ‘clear this will have a very significant impact on our economy’ adding it is ‘important that we’re honest about that’.

‘People should know that there’s hardship ahead. We won’t be able to protect every job or every business as I’ve said,’ Mr Sunak warned. 

‘It’s clear we must defeat this virus as quickly as possible. That’s not a choice between health and economics, that defies common sense. What we need is just to follow the rules and I’m grateful to everyone for doing that over the Easter weekend.’  

Tory former chancellor George Osborne described the economic numbers as ‘shocking’, warning that the ‘effects of this virus will be with us long after’ any cure.

He told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme: ‘I don’t think there’s any trade-off at the moment because a sick society is not going to produce a healthy economy and the decision to quarantine the country, which is a decision that almost every other country in the world has taken, is also protecting the economy, but of course these figures today just show what the overall economic damage of this outbreak and the measures required to deal with it is having.

‘And it’s interesting, they’re not particularly surprising numbers in the sense that they’ve been out there in the market and other economists have made these predictions, but they’re still shocking numbers.

‘This staggering loss of economic output, the staggering increase in the national debt and of course the real tragedy here is a massive increase in unemployment, not all of which comes back.

‘In other words, many people don’t simply get their job back later this year under this scenario and it’s just a reminder that the effects of this virus will be with us long after hopefully we’ve found a cure.’

Highlighting the global nature of the crisis, the IMF said the world economy in 2020 will suffer its worst year since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The fund said it expects the global economy to shrink 3 per cent – far worse than its 0.1 per cent dip in the Great Recession year of 2009 – before rebounding in 2021 with 5.8 per cent growth. It acknowledged that prospects for a rebound next year are clouded by uncertainty.

The bleak assessment represents a breathtaking downgrade by the IMF. In its previous forecast in January, before Covid-19 emerged as a grave threat to public health and economic growth worldwide, the international lending organisation had forecast moderate global growth of 3.3 per cent this year. 

‘The world has been put in a great lockdown,’ the IMF’s chief economist, Gita Gopinath, told reporters. ‘This is a crisis like no other.’

The ‘best case’ scenario would see $9trillion wiped off global GDP over this year and next – greater than the size of Germany and Japan combined. 

Earlier, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said ‘people will need to wait’ to find out when lockdown measures will be lifted.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I’m conscious that people would like to know sooner but it would be irresponsible of the Government to just issue messages now without having been through that assessment and the recommendations and careful consideration of it.

‘So people will have to just wait a little bit longer and more will be said at the end of this week.’

Majority of Britons back lockdown or say it should be even tighter

The vast majority of Britons back the lockdown rules being used to tackle the coronavirus but have mounting fears it will cripple the economy, a poll has found.

The country supports Boris Johnson‘s decision to shut down the country on March 23, but are scared about what it may cost.

It is understood Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will announce on Thursday the restrictions will last until at least May 7.

The devastating virus has ripped across Britain, having killed 11,329 and infected 88,621.

As much as 19 per cent of mainly younger workers have been rendered unemployed or have been forced to take a salary cut

As much as 19 per cent of mainly younger workers have been rendered unemployed or have been forced to take a salary cut

As much as 19 per cent of mainly younger workers have been rendered unemployed or have been forced to take a salary cut

The YouGov poll for the Telegraph found 84 per cent of those surveyed expected financial problems due to the lockdown.

As much as 19 per cent of mainly younger workers have been rendered unemployed or have been forced to take a lower salary.

The survey, which asked more than 2,000 Britons on Sunday, found 48 per cent of the country backs the Government’s lockdown measures.

A staggering 92 per cent said they agreed with: ‘I will probably follow the advice of the Government even if I don’t agree with it or find it pointless.’

Yet 44 per cent feel the PM could have implemented tighter controls as daily updates of people flouting the rules continue to emerge. Meanwhile a higher figure have said they feel progressively lonely and unhappy as the mental health impact of the restrictions start to bite.

YouGov political research manager Chris Curtis said the findings prove tricky for the policymakers, with it showing people back the lockdown but fear for the economy if it continues.

Meanwhile a higher figure have said they feel lonely

Meanwhile a higher figure have said they feel lonely

Meanwhile a higher figure have said they feel lonely

It came as new statistics revealed Britain’s official coronavirus death toll is missing 10 per cent of victims because they died in care homes and not NHS hospitals.

Data collected by the Office for National Statistics showed there were around 4,100 COVID-19-related deaths registered by April 3 in England and Wales.

Slightly less than 10 per cent (406) of those deaths occurred in hospices, care homes and private homes, according to the analysis. 

But the daily death tolls published by the NHS and the Department of Health only count people who have died in hospitals.

Number 10 is now under mounting pressure to start recording all coronavirus deaths, wherever they happen, amid accusations doctors are sweeping the true death toll under the carpet. 

Shadow social care minister Liz Kendall said: ‘We urgently need these figures on a daily basis to help deal with the emerging crisis in social care and ensure everything possible is being done to protect more than 400,000 elderly and disabled people who live in nursing and residential care homes.’

The Government was also forced to defend its supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) this morning after reports claimed it missed three chances to participate in an EU scheme to buy huge quantities.

The EU has ordered €1.5billion (£1.3billion) worth of protective masks, gowns and gloves for doctors and nurses – but Britain did not take part in talks about the purchases. 

The Government has previously said it was unable to join the EU’s procurement schemes as it had not received an email of invitation.

Ms Coffey insisted this morning the UK ‘is in a better place now than necessarily we would have been under the EU scheme’.

She said: ‘The important point is that we have over 700 million pieces of PPE that are being delivered.’ 

The government is still preparing estimates for how many ‘excess’ deaths will be caused by a deep recession – which could strip a third from GDP. 

But think-tanks have suggested that more than a million more people could end up with long-term health conditions.  

Treasury sources warned of ‘systemic failures’ if the economy is not revived by mid-summer. ‘There’s a point where there just isn’t anything to come back to,’ one source told the Times. 

But a Cabinet source told the Telegraph: ‘We won’t be able to lift the lockdown until the public feels ready for it. 

‘The Prime Minister’s illness has probably added another week to when that point will come, because it’s made everyone feel as if they know someone who has come close to losing their life to the virus and it has changed attitudes. 

‘We have to take the public with us, by unwinding the social distancing measures rather than stopping them suddenly, and it’s up to us to make the case for it.’ 

A YouGov poll found 84 per cent of those surveyed expected financial problems due to the lockdown.

As much as 19 per cent of mainly younger workers have been rendered unemployed or have been forced to take a lower salary.

But the survey found 48 per cent of the country backs the Government’s lockdown measures.

A staggering 92 per cent agreed with the statement: ‘I will probably follow the advice of the Government even if I don’t agree with it or find it pointless.’

Some 44 per cent felt the PM could have implemented tighter controls as daily updates of people flouting the rules continue to emerge. 

The government’s Scientific Advisory Group on Epidemics (SAGE) is meeting later to consider the latest evidence and try to thrash out a consensus, although it will not make a recommendation until later in the week. 

Mr Raab tried to voice cautious optimism last night as he revealed the latest data suggested the UK was ‘starting to win this struggle’, three weeks after restrictions were imposed.

But he insisted the virus was not yet past its peak and that it was ‘far too early’ to talk about relaxing the measures, with reports suggesting the lockdown will be extended for at least another three weeks.

Speaking at the Downing Street press briefing, he praised the public for staying at home over the Easter weekend, and added: ‘Our plan is working.

‘Please stick with it, and we’ll get through this crisis together.’

Details of how the lockdown will eventually be lifted remain unclear, however, with the Government repeatedly refusing to outline its ‘exit strategy’.

Boris Johnson’s Covid-19 journey: 

March 3: Mr Johnson dismissed the trend for coronavirus ‘elbow bumps’ – saying he is perfectly happy to keep shaking hands with people

March 5: He shook hands with Mr Schofield and Mrs Willoughby as he appeared on This Morning to reassure Britons

March 6: He meets scientists as he visits testing laboratory at Bedford Technology Park

March 8: Surveys flood defences in the Worcestershire town of Bewdley

March 9: He attempts to shake hands with a bishop at Westminster Abbey before stopping himself

March 10: Says people should avoid shaking hands, to shame other people into washing their hands

March 12: Mr Johnson says preventing mass gatherings is not an effective way to tackle coronavirus

March 16: He advises against mass gatherings in policy U-turn

March 17: Talks about importance of social distancing at briefing with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Chief Scientific Officer Patrick Vallance 

March 18: Speaks at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons and says all schools will be closed

March 19: Says UK can ‘turn the tide’ in fight against coronavirus within 12 weeks

March 20: Closes pubs, restaurants and theatres at press conference

March 23: Orders a UK-wide lockdown with people told to stay at home

March 25: Speaks at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons

March 25: Speaks to Queen Elizabeth II by telephone

March 26: Holds a video call to other G20 leaders and later joins in with a national applause for NHS staff

March 27: Takes part in NHS clap for carers outside Downing Street with Chancellor Rishi Sunak

March 27: Announces in a video that he has tested positive for coronavirus

April 3: Issues video on social media urging people to stay at home during sunny weather, and also reveals he is continuing to self-isolate as he is still suffering a temperature

April 4: Carrie Symonds, the PM’s pregnant fiancée reveals she has been self-isolating at her Camberwell flat.

April 5: Mr Johnson is admitted to an NHS hospital in London for tests

April 6: No10 announce that the Prime Minister had been admitted to intensive care

April 12: Boris is discharged from St Thomas’ Hospital in central London

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *