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Johnson invites opposition leaders to 'work together' as death toll rises by 708 in just one day in UK

A leading pandemic modeller in the UK has said Britain had “painted itself into a corner” with no clear exit strategy from the coronavirus crisis.
Apr 4th 2020, 1:41 PM 67,580 96

Updated Apr 4th 2020, 2:22 PM

UK PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson has written to the leaders of the opposition parties in Westminster inviting them to a briefing next week and insisting “we have a duty to work together at this moment of national emergency”.

It comes as his government urged people across the UK to stay at home this weekend despite the warm weather to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 

This afternoon, it was confirmed a further 708 people had died from Covid-19 in the UK, bringing the total to 4,313. On Monday 30 March, this figure was 1,408.

The rise today includes a further eight people who’ve died in Northern Ireland bringing the total there to 56.

The prime minister and Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the public should stick with the social distancing rules and resist the temptation to enjoy the sunshine forecast for swathes of the UK today and tomorrow.

But it came as Professor Graham Medley, a pandemic modeller advising the Government, warned that Britain had “painted itself into a corner” with no clear exit strategy from the Covid-19 crisis.

‘We have a duty’

In his letter to opposition leaders – with the identity of the new leader of the opposition to be announced today – Johnson said that the Covid-19 outbreak is the “biggest threat this country has faced in decades”. 

“As party leaders, we have a duty to work together at this moment of national emergency,” he said. “Therefore, I would like to invite all leaders of opposition parties in Parliament to a briefing with myself, the chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser next week.

I want to listen to your views and update you on the measures we have taken so far, such as rapidly expanding testing and providing economic support to businesses and individuals across the country.

This invitation was extended to new Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who agreed to meet with the prime minister next week. 

In his victory speech, posted online, Starmer said Labour had a “shared purpose” with the Government in getting the country through the Covid-19 outbreak.

He added: “Under my leadership, we will engage constructively with the Government, not opposition for opposition’s sake.

“Not scoring party political points or making impossible demands. But with the courage to support where that’s the right thing to do.”

‘Painted into a corner’

Meanwhile, pandemic modeller Medley told The Times today: “This disease is so nasty that we had to suppress it completely. Then we’ve kind of painted ourselves into a corner, because then the question will be, what do we do now?

We will have done three weeks of this lockdown, so there’s a big decision coming up on April 13. In broad terms are we going to continue to harm children to protect vulnerable people, or not?

Prof Medley added: “If we carry on with lockdown it buys us more time, we can get more thought put into it, but it doesn’t resolve anything, it’s a placeholder.”

His comments came after England’s chief nursing officer, Ruth May, urged people to think of two nurses who died after contracting coronavirus and “stay home for them”.

Areema Nasreen and Aimee O’Rourke, both mothers of three children, died alongside two healthcare assistants, it was announced yesterday.

May, speaking at the daily Downing Street press conference, said: “This weekend is going to be very warm and it will be very tempting to go out and enjoy those summer rays.

“But please, I ask you to remember Aimee and Areema. Please stay at home for them.”

She added: “I worry that there’s going to be more and I want to honour them today and recognise their service.”

Queen Elizabeth II is set to address the British people in a televised address tomorrow on the Covid-19 crisis.

With reporting from Sean Murray

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