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Despite his repeated support for Boris Johnson’s lockdown measures, including pub closures and the rule of six, Sir Keir took the opportunity to take a swipe at Mr Johnson over the possibility of further coronavirus restrictions being introduced. Sir Keir decried the leaking of plans for tougher measures and said it had led to confusion about Downing Street’s approach.
He called on the Tory Government to “get a grip of this situation urgently before it spirals out of control”.
Sir Keir said: “What we have seen in recent weeks is a Government that has lost control: lost control of its message; lost control of testing; and – crucially – lost control of the virus.”
He said local leaders had to be consulted more closely over restrictions, accusing Number 10 of “talking down to huge swathes of the country”.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, he said: “We need to guarantee local leaders are in the room and involved in decisions about restrictions in their area.
“At the moment the Government is operating under the misguided, arrogant and counterproductive view that ‘Whitehall knows best’, that decisions can be made behind closed doors, without any real consultation or by even picking up the phone to those on the frontline.”
His attack came despite Sir Keir revealing supported the rule of six during this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions and despite his party abstaining in a vote to support the measures.
Mr Johnson said the Labour leader “couldn’t be bothered” to rally his members to support something he believed in.
The Government is said to be planning to order the temporary closure of pubs, bars and restaurants in coronavirus hotspots, with ministers considering fresh financial packages to help the hardest hit areas and industries.
But regional leaders have criticised the Government for not consulting them ahead of changes, while Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said he would challenge any closures.
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Sir Keir called for the Government to increase testing capacity by investing in the NHS and university laboratories, while suggesting local public health teams should be given responsibility for contact-tracing.
He added: “We don’t need a world-beating testing system, we just need one that works.”
It comes after Former Home Secretary David Blunkett attacked Mr Johnson over his plans for testing.
Writing for the Daily Mail, he said: “I don’t understand why Boris Johnson thinks he will get away with treating a swathe of Britain as an experimental laboratory for testing measures that have limited scientific validity at best.”
Ministers are expected to outline a three-tier local lockdown system next week, which may see those most at risk if they catch COVID-19 being told to stay at home for months.
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