Matthew Taylor

Sunday shows roundup: Keir Starmer – nurseries ‘probably should be closed’

Sunday shows roundup: Keir Starmer – nurseries ‘probably should be closed’
Keir Starmer on the Andrew Marr Show
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Keir Starmer – Covid restrictions 'may not be tough enough'

Sir Keir Starmer was in the hot seat this morning as the latest of Andrew Marr's series of interviews with the major party leaders. Marr's first question to Starmer was about the government's heightened Tier 5 restrictions. The conversation comes at a time when the UK's official Covid-19 death toll has passed 80,000, and with the Office for National Statistics reporting figures showing that as many as one in 50 people have had the virus over the last week of 2020. Marr asked if the restrictions were tough enough to slow the spread:

KS: They are tough, and they're necessary... They may not be tough enough, but in a sense I think the most important thing is for people to get that message [to] stay at home... I would like to see the Prime Minister out there every day with a press conference making sure that that message is absolutely getting through.

People 'need clarity' over Tier 5 rules

On Wednesday, two women were stopped by police and each fined £200 for driving five miles to go for a walk at a south Derbyshire reservoir. Their cases have since been put under review after making national headlines. Marr asked Starmer for his perspective on tough penalties for breaking the rules:

KS: The police by and large have done a really good job in very difficult circumstances... I think there's a move from the police today to say 'We'll give one warning and then we'll move to a fine', and I don't quarrel with that... [The public] need clarity about what exactly is asked of them

School staff and unions are owed 'an apology'

The government has received plenty of criticism for its quick volte-face regarding the opening of schools, with the Prime Minister stating this time last week that children should 'absolutely' be returning. As a result of the Tier 5 restrictions, schools are now open only for the children of key workers, or those in vulnerable positions. Marr put it to Starmer that he, having also backed the majority of schools remaining open until the last minute, hadn't been much better:

KS: I didn't want schools to close... It became inevitable... But to the trade unions, to the teachers, to staff, who worked hard over Christmas to try and get schools back up and running, I think we all owe them an apology... and recognition of what they have done... This is a real struggle and we should all recognise that.

Nurseries 'probably should be closed'

Starmer ventured that the situation was such that the government should also consider the closure of nurseries:

KS: I think there is a case for looking at nursery schools. We're talking to the scientists about it... I think they probably should be closed.

Re-joining the EU 'not realistic'

Marr challenged Starmer over a pledge he had given in the Labour leadership election - that as Prime Minister he would 'bring back' and 'argue for' the restoration of free movement for EU citizens. Starmer did not explicitly rule this out, but suggested to Marr that this would be an uphill battle that he might not have the stomach to fight:

AM: Huge numbers of people in the Labour leadership election... voted for you... because you said you would do that...
KS: ...I don't think there's a case for rejoining the EU. I've said that before... Pretending to the British public that somehow after four years of negotiation, the treaty that's just been secured is up for grabs... that's not realistic. That's not going to happen.

Matt Hancock – 'Every adult will be offered a vaccine' by autumn

Marr also interviewed the Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who made the following pledge to the nation:

MH: Every adult will be offered a vaccine by the autumn, absolutely... We've got over 350 million doses on order... We're rolling them out as fast as they get delivered. We are going to have enough to be able to offer a vaccine to everyone

Over 200,000 people being vaccinated per day

Sophy Ridge also interviewed Hancock slightly earlier in the day, and he had similarly positive news to report on the government's ability to meet its vaccination target of 13 million people by mid February:

MH: We're on course... I'm very glad to say that at the moment we're running at over 200,000 people being vaccinated every day, and amongst the over 80s... we've now vaccinated around a third [of them].

'Every flex can be fatal'

Ridge also raised the case of the two women who were fined for their Derbyshire walk. Hancock was a bit less sympathetic to their cause than the Labour leader, though he confessed to not being au fait with the case:

MH: Absolutely I'm going to back the police, because the challenge here is that every flex can be fatal... These rules are not there as boundaries to be pushed. They're the limit of what people should be doing.

Schools 'are safe for children'

Ridge asked Hancock to clear up the government's messaging on schools. The Prime Minister has insisted that schools are 'safe', but also suggested that they could be 'vectors for transmission' of the virus:

MH: Schools are safe for children. The risk to children is extremely low, and there's no evidence of more tracers catching Covid than any other profession... But the challenge is that because [so many] children often catch it asymptomatically... schools can still cause spread whilst still being safe for the children who are in them. 

Peter Horby – Vaccines will probably be updated every few years

Marr spoke to Professor Peter Horby, the chair of the Nervtag committee on the virus which advises the government. Horby told Marr that he expected that the world would have to live with the coronavirus hovering around in the background from here on, and that would mean having to adapt as needed:

PH: There's a big spectrum of viruses. You can go from flu, where we need to update the vaccine almost every year, through to smething like measles where we hardly ever have to change the vaccine... Coronavirus is somewhere in the middle... it may be every few years that it has to be updated, and we don't yet know how long immunity lasts.

Adam Finn – Teachers could be fast-tracked for vaccine

Professor Adam Finn, a paediatrician who serves on the government's Joint Committee on Vaccination told Ridge that the committee would be looking into prioritising certain key workers for a vaccine in the next week:

AF: I would certainly be a strong advocate for schools, and teachers [being vaccinated early]... I can't predict exactly who will be prioritised... When it comes to teachers I think we all appreciate the critical role that they all play.

Tracy Nicholls – Some patients have been waiting 'nine hours' for care

And finally, Tracy Nicholls, the chief executive of the College of Paramedics, told Ridge of the 'unprecedented' pressure on hospitals as a result of the pandemic:
TN: We've seen certainly in London and the south east an increased level of pressure... We've had some members who've waited five, six, seven, eight and even nine hours... We know [long waits] can affect clinical outcomes, but... the hidden risk [is] the huge numbers of patients who are waiting for an ambulance that can't get to them.