Monday 29 June 2020 8:28 am

Johnson is 'asleep at the wheel', says Labour's Starmer

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been too slow at making decisions during the coronavirus crisis, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said today.

“I think the Prime Minister has been asleep at the wheel, he has been slow, the comms, the communications has been terrible,” Starmer told ITV.

“It began to break down frankly when Dominic Cummings put forward a ridiculous defence of what he had done in the north-east.”

Johnson was heavily criticised earlier this year when he chose to stand by his top adviser, after Cummings was caught travelling within the UK and visiting a national heritage site while experiencing coronavirus symptoms.

The PM defended Cummings again this morning, telling Times Radio: “Dom is outstanding.”

Read more: FTSE 100 falls as US struggles to contain spread of coronavirus

He added that while the coronavirus pandemic has been disastrous for the UK, now was not the time for an inquiry into his handling of the crisis.

“This has been a disaster,” he said. “Let’s not mince our words, I mean this has been an absolute nightmare for the country and the country has gone through a profound shock.”

Starmer also criticised the government’s approach to tracing during the crisis, saying: “They haven’t done the groundwork on test, trace and isolate.”

The NHS Test and Trace system has been beset by issues, as reports suggested some of those hired to contact Brits who had come into contact with a confirmed coronavirus case had never reached out to a single person.

Read more: England’s Test and Trace system misses one in four people with coronavirus

The government’s associated self-reporting app, which was being trialled earlier this year on the Isle of Wight, was recently abandoned in favour of restarting with a new model developed by Apple and Google.

Peers suggested that the UK may not have a functioning app before winter sets in, as it was no longer “a priority” project for the government.

Though the UK’s death and infection rate has been slowly decreasing, the country remains at high risk of a second wave of lockdown measures.

Following a spike in cases, home secretary Priti Patel has warned that Leicester may soon face localised lockdown rules to try and contain the spread of infection. However the mayor has warned that it does not have the powers in place to impose them.

A major easing of lockdown measures is set to come into effect on 4 July, when pubs and restaurants in England will be allowed to reopen as long as social distancing rules are kept in place.

Read more: Beaches will be closed if social distancing not observed, government warns

The recommended distance to be kept between two people from separate households will be reduced to 1m, though maintaining a 2m distance where possible is still advised.

The UK’s death toll from confirmed coronavirus cases rose by 36 yesterday to 43,550, most of which were in England. However the number of recorded deaths are usually lower at the weekend as hospitals and other institutions are slower to report figures.