Keir Starmer calls for 'discussion' on stricter London Covid lockdown amid vaccine push
- Credit: PA
Sir Keir Starmer today called for a “discussion” on London entering a stricter Covid-19 lockdown – as the Labour leader renewed his push for a national vaccination effort.
The Holborn and St Pancras MP urged eligible residents across Camden, Haringey, Barnet and Westminster to get the Covid jab as a “way out” of the crisis.
Mr Starmer said it is a “race between the vaccine and the virus” as infection rates “go through the roof”.
The Labour leader, who lives in Kentish Town, spoke with the Ham&High after London mayor Sadiq Khan declared Covid a “major incident” in the capital, who revealed that in some parts as many as one in 20 people have the virus.
“I think it’s just given a real urgency to it,” Mr Starmer said.
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“People can see that the pandemic is out of control, people know that hospital admissions are going up and up, and everybody appreciates that London’s hospitals are really struggling now.
“It’s only the early days of January and it’s against that background that there’s now the real urgency to ask people to step up and be part of the national efforts in relation to the vaccine.
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“That’s why we’ve launched the vaccination campaign and we're asking everybody to step up.”
The opposition leader called London’s Covid emergency “sadly inevitable” with more than 7,000 people hospitalised from the virus, amid mounting pressure and cancelled procedures at the Royal Free and Whittington hospitals.
On tightening lockdown restrictions, Mr Starmer said: “I think there’s a discussion to be had about that because one of the fears that we all have is that the lockdown needs to be strong enough to hold the virus.
“It's too early days to test that. We need to look at more of the numbers but certainly a discussion has to be had as to what else can be done if it needs to be done.”
He continued: “It is an important moment because it's not often that we get to this stage.
“It reflects the difficulties in the NHS and in hospitals across London and it has to be taken really seriously by everybody.”
Mr Starmer said the government needed to review lockdown restrictions “more urgently” in areas such as London.
He said that stricter lockdown measures in the capital – and any possible time extension – would be discussed between the London mayor and the prime minister.
The Labour leader said London’s virus emergency only reinforces the vaccination drive he has pushed this week.
His party’s campaign – Let's vaccinate Britain – has called on members, volunteers and trade unionists to support the vaccine rollout.
He is calling on them to sign up to assist with administering the vaccine, including in roles such as transporting people to have their jabs so the country can "get back to a degree of normality".
Mr Starmer told this newspaper: “It really is important that we summon the spirit of March of last year when the vast majority of people were literally at home.
“We've got to summon up that spirit with clear messaging from the government.
“Secondly we absolutely need to accelerate the vaccination rollout because the first four groups to be vaccinated includes those most likely to tragically die from the virus, so the sooner we can get those vaccinated the sooner we take the pressure off the NHS, which is why this campaign is so important.”
Mr Starmer, who had a virtual meeting with Camden GPs earlier today, said: “They [GPs] think they can ramp up vaccination but we do need volunteers to help communicating with communities, to provide information, to get people to vaccine centres, and to help with administration.
“So the message is to please step up and do whatever you can in this national effort.”
The government plans to inoculate around 14 million people in the highest priority groups – including the elderly, those with clinical needs, care home residents and staff, and frontline NHS workers – by February 15.