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Source: Labour List UK

Keir Starmer has set out new coronavirus targets for the government to reach on the number of tests conducted daily, of contract tracers to be recruited, and of volunteers to be harnessed.

The Labour leader has been reluctant to put forward a “rival strategy” to that of the government as it would be “the wrong thing to do”. He has promised not to offer “opposition for opposition’s sake”.

But in a new Evening Standard interview today, Starmer laid out specific demands for the government’s handling of Covid-19 – and specifically for a tracking and tracing programme.

Maintaining his focus on how the UK’s coronavirus lockdown will be lifted, or at least see physical distancing restrictions eased, the opposition leader has called on the government to:

  • Increase the daily testing target from 100,000 to 250,000
  • Increase the target for recruiting contract tracers from 18,000 to 50,000
  • Harness the 750,000 people who answered the call to join a ‘volunteer army’ of NHS responders

“Almost every country that has managed to get to the next stage has had testing and tracing as part of the strategy. The UK needs to do that too,” Starmer told the Evening Standard.

“That means hitting the 100,000 tests a day target, but then going further. The Prime Minister previously promised 250,000 tests a day. The government’s advisers will know whether that is precisely the right target. But I do believe the government should recommit to such an ambition.”

Reiterating his criticism made in his first Prime Minister’s Questions, in which he argued that the government was “slow into lockdown, slow on testing, slow on protective equipment”, Starmer said “it looks like we are going to be slow on the exit strategy”.

The Labour leader revealed that he would be putting his new demands to the Prime Minister when they hold talks next week, as well as continuing to back a pay increase for NHS staff and carers.

In the exclusive interview, Starmer was also asked about a £25,000 donation to his leadership campaign from the founder of gambling firm Bet365. He rejected criticism of the donation.

He is described as having “batted away questions” regarding the pledge made during his campaign to “bring back” EU freedom of movement. At the time, he said: “We have to make the case for freedom of movement.”

Recognising the importance of “large scale” tracing in relaxing coronavirus measures, Health Secretary Matt Hancock this week committed both to recruiting 18,000 contact tracers and to having a finalised NHS app by mid-May.

MIL OSI United Kingdom