NICOLA STURGEON wants the UK government to “treat the public like grown ups” amid accusations it is dithering over a plan to exit the coronavirus lockdown.
Scotland’s First Minister made her call as ministers admitted a strategy on phasing out the Covid-19 shutdown is at least two weeks away from being announced.
There is growing pressure on the government to outline its plan, with economic paralysis wreaking havoc on jobs and businesses.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said any such blueprint will take another fortnight, but the SNP’s leader insists she wants to level with the public over the lockdown.
Ms Sturgeon told BBC Radio 4’s Today show: “I’m not going to set out next week the date on which lockdown will be lifted.
“What I’m going to try to do is set out the decision-making framework that we’re operating in, so that we are treating the public like grown-ups that they are.”
Labour’s new leader Keir Starmer accused Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, of being “reluctant” to rubberstamp any exit plan while Boris Johnson recovers from the virus at Chequers.
It came after Mr Raab announced yesterday the UK’s lockdown would last another three weeks, but failed to outline an exit strategy.
Speaking on BBC’s Coronavirus Newscast podcast last night, Sir Keir said: “I think that throughout this they’ve struggled with taking decisions quickly enough.
“It feels as though they’ve been in a position probably for a week or 10 days now where it’s been difficult for the Government to make big decisions.
“And I think there’s a bit of that lying behind this as well.
“I suspect, although I don’t know, that Dominic Raab is just reluctant – he probably does know that it’s time for an exit strategy – but he’s probably reluctant to sign it off without the Prime Minister and I think there’s a bit of that in the mix.”
The UK government must review the lockdown every three weeks by law to assess whether the rules are working.
But it is already having a savage impact on jobs, with around a million out-of-work Brits trying to claim Universal Credit since the shutdown started last month.
Two in three construction firms are set to fold by June unless the government steps in to help, with firms begging for clarity amid confusion on when the lockdown will end.
Mr Shapps indicated the UK government needed to wait at least two weeks until the end of April to hear from medical and scientific advisers before giving “greater clarity”.
He told LBC radio: “We’ve said now that this three-week period will contain a review by the scientists at the end of this month, so that’s actually only two weeks away, whilst they’ll be reviewing this.
“And I hope we’ll be in a position to provide, well I know we’ll be in a position to provide, greater clarity.”
Coronavirus deaths in the UK jumped to 13,729 yesterday after 861 more patients died in hospital.
According to the Department of Health 103,093 people have tested positive for the deadly bug – up 4,617 from the day before.
The lockdown is in place to stem the spread of the disease and ease the burden on the NHS.
Mr Raab yesterday outlined five key tests the country had to meet before restrictions could begin to be lifted. They are:
- The NHS must still be able to cope – with the confidence that critical care and special treatment can continue across the UK
- A sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rates so experts are confident that the peak has passed
- The rate of infection falling to “manageable levels”
- Making sure that Britain has enough testing capacity and PPE to relax measures
- Ensuring that the changes will not risk a second peak of infections that overwhelm the NHS
Mr Raab said rushing to relax the measures would jeopardise all the progress made so far.
He added that the UK was still on course to take three months to come out of the current peak — taking the lockdown to June.
Experts also warned some social distancing measures could stay in place until a vaccine is found, which could take up to 18 months.
While the disease is still spreading fast in some areas, the contagion rate nationwide is now below R1, where each sufferer passes it to less than one person.
Insisting Britain was at “a delicate and dangerous stage” of this pandemic, Mr Raab told the No10 press conference: “We need to be patient a while longer. If we rush to relax the measures in place, we would risk wasting all the sacrifices and all the progress we have made.
“We’ve just come too far, we’ve lost too many loved ones, we’ve already sacrificed far too much to ease up now.”
He added: “It’s been an incredible national team effort. Now is not the moment to give the coronavirus a second chance.
“Let’s stick together, let’s see this through.”
Boris Johnson imposed the nationwide lockdown on March 23.