'How on earth did it come to this?': Starmer asks Johnson why UK has world's 'second highest' death toll

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener

Sir Keir Starmer has asked Boris Johnson "how on earth did it come to this?" as he suggested the UK has the world's "second highest" coronavirus death toll.

He said at least 29,427 people have lost their lives to Covid-19 in the UK, as he criticised the PM's previous comments that other countries were watching Britain's "apparent success".

“It’s now the highest number in Europe. It’s the second highest in the world," he said, "that’s not success or apparent success."

The prime minister attempted to the rubbish international comparison, saying the data is not yet there, but Sir Keir held up a slide shown at government press conferences, in which ministers showed global differences.

The suggestion that international comparisons cannot be made "does not hold water", Sir Keir said, before moving on to deaths at care homes, which "continue to go up".

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"Why hasn’t the government got to grips with this already?" Sir Keir asked, saying it's been 12 weeks since Health Secretary for England Matt Hancock admitted the sector was in "crisis".

The PM disagreed with Sir Keir's assessment of the care sector, saying there had been a “palpable improvement” in cares homes in the last few days, but he admitted he "bitterly" regrets the situation.

He said the government is "working hard" to reduce infection and deaths in care homes, and said the ramping up of testing was part of an effort to control the virus.

He said he had a new “ambition” to reach 200,000 coronavirus tests per day “by the end of this month”.

After PMQs, Mr Johnson's spokesman said its a target for capacity, not actual tests carried out.

The spokesman said it is an "operational target to have the capacity across all of the different testing pillars to do 200,00 tests a day”.

Sir Keir welcomed the new target, but questioned by there had not been more that 100,000 tests per day, since the day the government claimed to have achieved its previous testing aim.

Matt Hancock had set a target of reaching that many tests by the end of April and on Friday he announced that more 122,000 had been carried out.

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Since then, the figure has fell significantly below 100,000, to just 84,806 tests on Monday.

"What does the PM think was so special about the 30th of April that meant that testing that day was so high?" Sir Keir asked.

The PM admitted "capacity currently exceeds demand" but said ministers are "working on that".

"A fantastic testing regime is going to be absolutely critical to our long-term economic recovery," he added.

The PM also confirmed he was to make a statement on Sunday, to set out his lockdown exit strategy, and said there could be some changes on Monday.

On Tuesday House Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle criticised the government for making the announcement on Sunday, saying "major government announcements should be made first in the House".

The PM said the announcement was being made on Sunday because "it will be a good thing" for people to be informed of what changes might be made, before they are imposed.

Sir Keir welcomed the exit strategy, something he has been calling for, for weeks.

The pair, and Westminster opposition leaders, will meet with Boris Johnson on Thursday to discuss the coronavirus response.

The Labour leader will raise the need for a “national consensus” on easing the lockdown based around keeping the public safe, a “mass expansion” of contact tracing and protecting key workers, his spokesman said.

At PMQs he also asked the prime minister about the "ongoing problems" with PPE and said "it is obvious that this problem is going to get even more acute if and when the Government ask people to return to work”.

The PM said problems in securing personal protective equipment were “enraging” but there was now a “massive plan to ramp up domestic supply”.

Mr Johnson was back in the Commons chamber for his first PMQs since catching coronavirus and later becoming a father to a newborn son.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told the PM it was “good to see him back in Parliament” and congratulated him and his fiancee Carrie Symonds on the birth of their son Wilfred.

Mr Johnson has not taken questions in the Commons since March 25 before Parliament broke early for Easter as MPs struggled to keep their distance in the Palace of Westminster.

He returned to Downing Street last week after recovering from Covid-19, but Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab deputised for him in PMQs as Mr Johnson welcomed the birth of his new son.

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