Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer urges government to publish exit strategy this week

Sir Keir Starmer Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has urged the government to publish its exit strategy from the Covid-19 lockdown this week.

In a letter to Dominic Raab, who is deputising for Boris Johnson, Sir Keir confirmed that Labour would support the government if, as is expected, it extends the lockdown later this week.

But he said: “The question for Thursday therefore is no longer about whether the lockdown should be extended, but about what the Government’s position is on how and when it can be eased in due course and on what criteria that decision will be taken.

“Ministers have argued that now is not the time to talk about this. I profoundly disagree. Overcoming this crisis requires taking the British public with you."

Sir Keir told ITV News the government needs to keep the public's trust by telling them what is happening regarding the lockdown.

"The demand I have made about the exit strategy is intended to be constructive, because I genuinely think that to ensure we have the trust of the public and the planning is in place, decisions have to be made now," he said.

"We have asked a lot of the public over the past three months and they've given a lot, it's been very, very hard for people, we need to keep their trust and they need to know broadly speaking what will happen next.

"Now is the right time, as the plans have to be put in place."

He said a vaccine for the virus is about 12 months away, so people want to know what will happen in the period before it is made available.

"That is a question they are entitled to an answer for, not precise timings... but what's the broad thinking and what are the options that you think are viable and what's the planning going behind them," he added.

Sir Keir also questioned what the priorities would be once the lockdown is eased, and whether schools would be the first to open, as there's "growing concern in the equality between children getting good home schooling and those that are not".

Sir Keir warned in his letter to Mr Raab the “silent pressures” on communities across the UK “cannot be underestimated”, and said that to maintain morale and hope “people need a sense of what comes next”.

The Labour leader wrote many will be struggling with their mental health, others with "how they will make ends meet".

"For others, the challenge will be loneliness and separation from loved ones, illness or losing to this terrible disease," Sir Keir wrote.

New coronavirus cases in the UK Credit: PA Graphics

He urged Mr Raab to commit to setting out the criteria the government will use to inform how and when it intends to ease the lockdown; to publish the exit strategy now or in the coming week; and to outline the sectors and core public services that are most likely to see restrictions eased.

Labour’s call comes as the Government faces mounting pressure to set out how and when it plans to lift the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. No precise strategy has yet been announced.

A government source said: “Our strategy is focused on saving lives.

“We have been clear that all decisions will be guided by the scientific advice and data.

“Talk of an exit strategy before we have reached the peak risks confusing the critical message that people need to stay at home in order to protect our NHS and save lives.”