Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer puts pressure on the PM at PMQs over scientists’ call for preparations for a possible second wave
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has indicated at PMQs that he has not yet read the government-commissioned report that sets out urgent measures required to prepare for the potential of a second wave of COVID-19 pandemic, telling the Commons that he was only “aware” of it.
Johnson was questioned by Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour Party, at Prime Minister’s Questions about a study, that was commissioned the government and published this week, by 37 senior doctors and scientists, about the need for an effective test-and-trace system in the UK to mitigate the threat of a new outbreak.
The 79-page study predicts that in a worst-case scenario, a second-wave of the coronavirus this winter could kill up to 120,000 people in the UK, and it states that preparing for this in the coming weeks is paramount to reduce the death toll.
Mr Hancock made these comments as he was setting out the government’s plan to make the wearing of face coverings compulsory in shops and supermarkets in England from the 24th of July.
Starmer said: “I have to ask, in light of the last few questions: has the prime minister actually read this report, that sets out the reasonable worst-case scenario and tells the government what it needs to do about it in the next six weeks? Has he read it?”
Johnson replied: “I am, of course, aware of the report, and we are, of course, taking every reasonable step to prepare this country for a second spike,” bringing jeers from some opposition MPs.”
The Labour leader asked the Prime Minister to commit to implementing all the recommendations within the report, which had been commissioned by the government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance. Johnson did not do so and instead said that ministers would only be ensuring the NHS was not overwhelmed in the event of another outbreak.
This comes after a statue of a Black Lives Matter protester has appeared in Bristol on the empty plinth that had previously been occupied by the statue of Edward Colston, a known slave trader.
Boris Johnson replied by returning to a familiar theme for him at recent PMQs, by accusing the Labour leader of selectively opposing government’s actions in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic and ”knocking the confidence of the country”.
He added: “I can certainly give the house the assurance that our test-and-trace system is as good as or better than any other system anywhere in the world. And yes, it will play a vital part in ensuring that we do not have a second spike this winter.”
Starmer responded by condemning Johnson’s approach to the exchanges:
“It’s perfectly possible to support track and trace, and point out the problems,”
“And standing up every week saying it’s a stunning success is kidding no one. That isn’t giving people confidence in the system. They would like a prime minister who stands up and says: ‘There are problems, and this is what I’m going to do about them.’”