Labour’s leader Sir Keir Starmer has complained that it would be “reckless” of Prime Minister Boris Johnson to “throw off all protections” after the UK has been under some form of coronavirus restrictions or lockdown for more than a year.
On Monday, Prime Minister Johnson announced that if the end of restrictions comes on July 19th — pending the latest infection figures next week — then all rules would go, including limits on public gatherings, social distancing, and mask mandates.
Mr Johnson suggested that if we do not unlock in the summer, restrictions could trail on into winter: “We must be honest with ourselves — if we can’t reopen our society in the next few weeks when we will be helped by the arrival of summer and the school holidays — we must ask ourselves, when will we be able to return to normal?”
The leader of the Opposition — who, despite what the title suggests, has continued to back the Conservative government’s lockdowns and restrictions — called Mr Johnson’s plans “reckless”.
Sir Keir told the BBC on Monday night: “To throw off all protections at the same time, when the infection rate is still going up, is reckless. We need a balanced approach. We need to keep key protections in place, including masks, including ventilation.”
Asked what legal restrictions he would want to keep after the 19th of July, Mr Starmer said he would back the continuing of wearing masks in enclosed places, such as in shops and on public transport. Starmer made the remarks after a major trade union Unite — traditionally a major donor to the Labour party — demanded that masks remain mandatory on public transport after the planned end of restrictions.
Others from the left-wing party demanded the law continue to force Britons to wear masks on busses and trains, including former Labour MP and mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, who claimed that after a year of the mask mandate, it “is not asking too much to have a continuing requirement to wear masks in those places. If you’re in a position where you have no choice about it and you feel very vulnerable, I just don’t think it’s fair to remove that requirement at this stage.”
If Not Now, Then When? UK Prepares to End Lockdown
‣Spectre of Vax Passports Returnshttps://t.co/30pwuh2Jb6
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) July 5, 2021
Labour mayors such as London’s Sadiq Khan, West Yorkshire’s Tracy Babin, and the MP and mayor of South Yorkshire Dan Jarvis likewise backed the continual forcing of Britons to wear masks.
While Green Party MP Caroline Lucas also claimed that allowing people to chose whether they wear masks “is both reckless and unfair”.
Some members of the scientific community also bemoaned Britons being handed back personal responsibility, with Professor John Drury, a member of a subgroup to the influential Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) which advises the government on its pandemic strategy, claiming to allow Britons the choice to wear a mask or not “seems like a cop-out” [British slang for avoiding responsibility]. While a Leeds University’s virologist, Dr Stephen Griffin, called it a “recipe for disaster”.
Businesses may also decide to continue with demanding customers cover their faces, with budget airlines EasyJet and RyanAir saying despite domestic government recommendations, it would follow European guidelines and continue to force mask-wearing on passengers.
However, Britons appear reluctant to let go of wearing masks, with a shock poll conducted by YouGov claiming that a strong majority of people back mandatory continued mask-wearing in shops and on public transport, with 70 per cent saying they would feel less “safe” being in confined spaces with others if they were not wearing masks.
Majority of Britons Back Continued Mask Mandates, Would Feel Unsafe Without Them https://t.co/l4kyYFLnTN
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) July 6, 2021