Coronavirus: Workplaces should follow 'national safety standard' after lockdown, says Keir Starmer

Labour Party leader SIr Keir Starmer has called for a national consensus on easing lockdown (Getty Images)

Workplaces should conform to a “national safety standard” as the coronavirus lockdown is eased, according to Sir Keir Starmer.

The Labour leader has called for a “national consensus” on the best way to tackle the next phase of the COVID-19 crisis, as the EU warned the coronavirus is not on a “downward slope” in the UK.

The party has outlined seven principles it wants the government to consider when planning for the next phase, including a national safety standard for workplaces and schools.

Sir Keir is due to meet Boris Johnson on Wednesday, a day before the government must consider, by law, whether or not to extend its restriction measures.

On Sunday, the prime minister is expected to announce his “road map” for easing the lockdown, while the government has hinted its two-metre social distancing rule could be relaxed.

Sir Keir said that just as there was a consensus going into lockdown, there should be consensus coming out.

“I sense that people are really worried about lifting of lockdown,” he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Tuesday.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told Good Morning Britain that people are worried about returning to work (ITV)

“They’re really worried about going back to work. They need a high level of reassurance.

“This is not just a reassurance exercise for those going back to work, it’s essential for the safety of the nation.

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“If you don’t have the protective equipment, and that means that people get infected, we’re going to be right back where we started.”

He said personal protective equipment for workers is not a “luxury item” that would be “nice to have”.

Sir Keir criticised a recent government document on work safety as “pretty vague”, saying it needed strengthening.

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“That’s why one of the principles I’ve set out today is a national safety standard,” he said.

“I think people will want to know ‘if I’m going back to work, is it a safe environment, what’s being done about social distancing, what are the hand-washing facilities, if I need protective equipment am I going to get it?’”

Labour’s proposals also include setting an "ambitious target" for contact tracing, coming up with a national plan to find a vaccine and introducing bespoke support for individuals and industries facing challenges, such as the hospitality sector.

Sir Keir later told BBC Breakfast that more tests need to be carried out.

He said: "What we now need is testing for everybody who's got symptoms and everybody who's been in contact with anyone that's got symptoms.

"So we just need to keep that curve, the number of tests, going up and up and up."

Sir Keir said he believed that, as lockdown is eased, it is "inevitable" masks will be needed where people cannot socially distance, such as on public transport.

He told BBC Breakfast he will be raising the issue with the PM on Wednesday.

He said: "Where does he see this? I think it's inevitable. What's his view on it? And then crucially the planning around it, because what I don't want is a position where protective equipment, face masks that are needed on the front line aren't on the front line because there's supply problems."

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