Labour signalled today that it would no longer back lockdowns, claiming that the country now has to ‘learn to live with Covid’.
Wes Streeting, the party’s health spokesman, announced that its approach was changing ‘as the threat was changing’.
He added: ‘Learning to live well with Covid will prepare us to get through the next wave of infections without more restrictions on our lives, livelihoods and liberties.’
Wes Streeting (pictured), Labour’s health spokesman, signalled today that it would no longer back lockdowns, claiming that the country now has to ‘learn to live with Covid’
Another 81,713 positive tests were logged in the last 24 hours, according to Government dashboard data, marking a 44 per cent drop on the figure last week
The number of deaths is also beginning to decrease. Another 287 were registered today in an eight per cent fall compared to last Saturday
However, party sources made it clear last night that the policy switch would not stop Labour voting for restrictions made necessary by new virus variants.
Mr Streeting’s announcement comes just a month after Boris Johnson had to rely on Labour votes to pass pandemic restrictions in England, including controversial Covid passes for nightclubs and large venues and compulsory face masks in most indoor settings.
The Prime Minister faced a massive rebellion from his own side of 99 Tory MPs.
Mr Streeting wrote that Labour ‘saved his bacon’ by ‘putting politics aside before Christmas’.
He said: ‘Without Labour, sensible Plan B measures wouldn’t have happened and we wouldn’t be enjoying the new year without the threat of new restrictions.’
He added that Mr Johnson ‘should be thanking us’.
Mr Streeting, who became health spokesman in November, acknowledged the harm caused by full lockdowns to children’s education and people’s jobs and mental health.
The Ilford North MP said: ‘A visit to a primary school in my constituency this week was a reminder that lockdowns come at a great cost.
It comes just a month after Boris Johnson (pictured) had to rely on Labour votes to pass pandemic restrictions in England, including controversial Covid passes for nightclubs
Daily hospital admissions have also remained flat with 2,423 new admissions on January 10, the latest date with data, which was down by less than a per cent on the previous week
‘Children spent 155 days out of school on average over the past couple of years, but the impact on their learning, their wellbeing and their life chances is immeasurable.’
Workers ‘have lost their jobs’ through ‘no fault of their own’, while there was plenty of evidence that ‘shutting us off from our colleagues, friends and family has taken its toll on our mental health and wellbeing’.
Mr Streeting, who coupled his policy change with a swipe at Mr Johnson’s ‘boozy parties’ at No 10, admitted Tory Ministers had already said the nation had to learn to live with Covid, but had failed to set out how to do so.
Labour’s plan involved proper air ventilation for schools and ‘decent levels of sick pay’ to let workers isolate when they tested positive.
Last night, anti-lockdown Tory MPs welcomed Labour’s ‘conversion’ to common sense but insisted they should never have voted for lockdowns as there was no ‘clear evidence’ from international comparisons that lockdowns worked.
Senior Tory MP and lockdown opponent Sir Graham Brady said: ‘So far, Labour has not only supported every lockdown or restriction but has urged that they go on for longer and that restrictions should always be tighter than those put in place by the Government.
‘If this is genuine change of stance, I welcome it. It is time that all parties made it clear that it should be for the public to make decisions for themselves using common sense and being informed by the best evidence and advice.’
WES STREETING: For the sake of our children, we can never shut down our country again
By Wes Streeting Shadow Health Secretary for The Mail On Sunday
It’s not only parties at No 10 that Boris Johnson has been misleading the country about.
Last week, the Prime Minister told the House of Commons that the Labour Party would have locked down the country over Christmas in response to the Omicron variant.
It’s total rubbish.
We take it as a compliment.
The Prime Minister can’t find anything to attack in Labour’s common-sense approach to Covid and so he is having to make it up instead.
While the Labour Party supported lockdowns at earlier stages of the pandemic, our approach has changed as the threat has changed, Wes Streeting (pictured) said
The truth is that, while the Labour Party supported lockdowns at earlier stages of the pandemic, our approach has changed as the threat has changed.
I’m not surprised that Boris Johnson is socially distanced from the truth, but I am surprised he’s taken to telling porkies about Labour’s policies on Covid, given that we put party politics aside before Christmas and saved his bacon.
Without Labour, sensible Plan B measures wouldn’t have happened and we wouldn’t be enjoying the new year without the threat of new restrictions.
He should be thanking us.
We know that the coronavirus is here to stay but, as Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, I don’t want to see our country in lockdown ever again.
A visit to a primary school in my constituency this week was a reminder that lockdowns come at a great cost.
Children spent 155 days out of school on average over the past couple of years, but the impact on their learning, their wellbeing and their life chances is immeasurable.
Entrepreneurs who have spent years building up their businesses have seen them collapse, while others have made enormous sacrifices just to survive.
Workers have lost their jobs.
All through no fault of their own.
I still haven’t forgiven the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, for leaving so many self-employed people excluded from any support whatsoever, while carelessly handing billions in Covid support to fraudsters.
There is plenty of evidence that shutting us off from our colleagues, friends and family has taken its toll on our mental health and wellbeing.
Without Labour, Plan B measures wouldn’t have happened and we wouldn’t be enjoying the new year without the threat of restrictions. Boris Johnson (pictured) should be thanking us
Feelings of loss and loneliness are inevitable when much of what makes life worth living is taken away.
That’s why when Keir Starmer spoke about shifting the focus on healthcare to prevention as well as cure yesterday, he pledged that Labour would guarantee mental health support within a month to all who need it.
We need to learn to live with Covid. We’ve heard that phrase a lot from Ministers recently, but without a plan this is little more than a slogan. And unless we learn from the mistakes of the past two years we are doomed to repeat them.
That’s why I’ve announced Labour’s plan for living well with Covid. It includes some of the action we want to see from Government immediately, which would help to limit the spread of infections while having a minimal impact on our lives, livelihoods and liberties.
Fitting our schools with proper air ventilation systems means they can stay open and children can continue to socialise and learn without sitting in their coats in freezing classrooms.
Paying workers a decent level of sick pay means they can afford to isolate when they test positive for Covid and are less likely to spread the virus to their colleagues.
We’ve got to build our own national resilience and capacity for testing and vaccination. It means we’re not reliant on other countries and can stand on our own two feet and give a boost to British manufacturing.
We cannot allow a repeat of the shortages of tests we’ve seen over the past month. It was extraordinarily complacent of the Government to go into this winter not knowing that their testing delivery service was taking Christmas off.
We’ll also retain a standing volunteer army to help roll out future vaccines to keep the pressure off NHS staff.
When Keir Starmer (pictured) spoke about shifting the focus on healthcare to prevention as well as cure, he pledged that Labour would guarantee mental health support within a month
Our best defence against new variants is to play our part in vaccinating the world. None of us are safe until all of us are safe. It is not just the right thing to do, it is also in our national self-interest.
Most importantly, we need a plan to make sure we never again enter a pandemic with a health and social care system lacking the staff, capacity and resilience to cope.
The NHS went into the pandemic with 4.5million people waiting for treatment, then a record high. We had a social-care system that had seen £8 billion of cuts, with elderly and disabled people denied the security they deserve.
It’s not just that the Conservatives didn’t fix the roof when the sun was shining, they dismantled the roof and removed the floorboards.
Now they are too distracted by boozy parties in Downing Street to take us forward.
Learning to live well with Covid will prepare us to get through the next wave of infections without more restrictions on our lives, livelihoods and liberties.
Wes Streeting is the MP for Ilford North. He became Labour’s health spokesman in November.