A national lockdown must be reimposed across England within the next 24 hours, according to Labour’s Keir Starmer.
The opposition leader on Sunday evening urged U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson to tighten curbs in a bid to tackle coronavirus cases that are now “clearly out of control.”
After lifting a national lockdown at the end of November, Johnson returned to a regional, tiered system of coronavirus restrictions in December.
But the tiering system was dramatically toughened just before the Christmas break as the country battles a new variant of the coronavirus.
The majority of the country is now in a new, fourth tier of restrictions with residents urged to stay at home and non-essential businesses, including shops, pubs and restaurants, ordered to close.
Johnson on Sunday morning hinted that tougher restrictions on public life could be introduced in parts of the country — but declined to give specifics.
“It may be that we need to do things in the next few weeks that will be tougher in many parts of the country, I’m fully, fully reconciled to that,” he said in an interview with the BBC.
Starmer, whose own call for a short “circuit-breaker” lockdown went unheeded by Johnson at the tail end of last year, told Sky News: “The virus is clearly out of control and it’s no good the prime minister hinting that further restrictions are coming into place in a week or two or three.”
Arguing that previous delays by Johnson had been “the source of so many problems,” the Labour leader called for “national restrictions within the next 24 hours.”
And he added: “We can’t allow the prime minister to use up the next two or three weeks and then bring in a national lockdown which is inevitable. Do it now.”
Starmer’s comments came as the U.K. recorded 54,990 new cases of coronavirus Sunday — the sixth day in a row that new cases have exceeded 50,000 — and 454 daily deaths.