Whilst it appears that we are past the first peak of the Coronavirus pandemic, hundreds of people are continuing to die from the virus every day. My thoughts remain with the families of those who have passed away and with everyone currently suffering from the virus. The North East now has one of the highest infection rates in the UK. I therefore urge everyone to continue to follow the advice of the authorities and to stay at home as much as possible. As I have said before, the Labour Party will work constructively with the Government where decisions are based on scientific and medical advice. We will also provide a critical voice when the Government falls short.
As I know you will be aware, on Sunday, Boris Johnson made a statement on the easing of some lockdown restrictions. As the Leader of the Labour Party said what the nation was looking for in that statement was clarity and consensus. However, we were left with more questions than answers.
One of the biggest questions was the safety of those who are being ‘actively encouraged’ to go back to work. The government should address the TUC’s concerns about the draft back to work guidelines, including ensuring clear enforcement for these standards and requiring businesses to publish individual risk assessments.
More widely, Labour fully supported the original implementation of the lockdown and its general extension on Sunday. We are calling on the Government to build a national consensus on how we can safely emerge from the lockdown as we move into the next phases of the Coronavirus pandemic. As part of this Labour have announced seven core principles that the Government should follow.
One of these principles, that is crucial if we are to safely lift the lockdown, is testing. Currently, testing remains way behind other similar countries and, on some days, even below the Government’s own target. Labour is calling for a fully resourced testing, isolation and tracing programme. Through mass testing and contact tracing we could break the chains of transmission until a vaccine is available.
I want to assure you that the Labour Party will continue to push the Government to follow the science and only lift lockdown restrictions when it is safe to do so.