Keir Starmer grilled by Coates over possible school closures
Sir Keir Starmer struggled to outline his plans to safeguard the UK from a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic as he called on Boris Johnson to order a new national lockdown. Sir Keir appeared to fumble with his words as he attempted to answer questions on his proposals, which include demands to close schools. The Sky News interview ultimately erupted into a clash between the Labour leader and reporter Sam Coates.
The Sky News reporter repeatedly challenged Sir Keir to clearly outline his demands for schools after having spent months insisting students should be allowed to attend class.
Sir Keir insisted both primary and secondary schools should now be shut down as all schools would “inevitably” have to close because of the pandemic, but insisted the UK will need a “national plan” before moving ahead with school closures.
The Labour leader then tried to shift the attention to the vaccination programme but Mr Coates demanded he clarifies his position on what should parents be doing with their children over the coming days.
He said: “I don’t want to leave schools because I don’t understand your position.
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“Do you think primary schools should shut tomorrow, and what are the conditions under which they should stay open?”
Sir Keir reiterated he had called for “national restrictions” at the weekend however Mr Coates erupted: “What does that mean? I don’t understand.”
He continued: “I called for national restrictions yesterday. They should be put in place as soon as possible.
“It is inevitable as part of those national restrictions that schools will have to close. The two go together and I’m saying it should happen as soon as possible.”
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Sir Keir also ruled out supporting plans to reopen schools if a mass vaccination programme were to be drawn up in the coming weeks.
He added: “We need to get the virus under control. We need to protect the NHS which is under a huge amount of strain this January.
“And we need a programme for the vaccine to be rolled out. Let’s have a vaccine programme that gets us up to 2 million a week within the next week or two, and 4 million a week in the early part of February.
“That’s what we need more than anything.”
The Government’s “contract” with the public would be to ensure that the tough restrictions are used to make sure the vaccine programme is completed as quickly as possible.
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