Labour deputy leadership candidate Rosena Allin-Khan, a practising A&E doctor, has said Boris Johnson’s “relaxed” approach to coronavirus could cost lives.
The Tooting MP told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “If we look at the fact that we are two weeks behind Italy, we are headed for a disaster if people do not heed the social distancing measures.
“The prime minister simply said yesterday he wants people to enjoy themselves outside while also saying that people should stay two metres apart outdoors.”
The MP’s comments came as the number of confirmed UK coronavirus cases climbed to 5,683 on Sunday night, and the official death toll reached 281.
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Allin-Khan added: “This relaxed-style mixed messaging will cost lives and I believe people are struggling to follow guidelines because they are just not clear.”
She confirmed she would support a “full lockdown” if that was proven to be the way to save lives.
On Monday morning, Johnson called again for people to stay at home, tweeting: “If you don’t follow these instructions, you are putting people’s lives at risk: You must stay at home to protect our NHS and save lives. #StayHomeSaveLives”
If you don’t follow these instructions, you are putting people’s lives at risk:— Boris Johnson #StayHomeSaveLives (@BorisJohnson) March 23, 2020
You must stay at home to protect our NHS and save lives. #StayHomeSaveLives
Health secretary Matt Hancock rejected the suggestion current policy was risking lives in an interview on Monday morning.
He said: “If you’d seen how hard the prime minister is working, like I have, every day from first thing in the morning until last thing at night, we are doing everything we possibly can to keep people safe.
“And the actions that we have taken over the last week are unprecedented. And taking those decisions is a huge thing.”
Allin-Khan’s comments come after she told the House of Commons last week about visiting her father in a care home during the outbreak, and called for Johnson to “scale up the response" to the epidemic.
She said: “Last night I visited my father in a care home and I'm acutely aware I may have fed him for the very last time. We are in unprecedented times.
“I would like to know where was the forward-planning for PPE [personal protective equipment] for our NHS and care staff? Where is the testing for medics? Why are we waiting so long for mass testing? And why are social distancing measures merely just suggestions?
“Prime minister, it is right that we have all put party loyalty aside to work together during this time of national crisis, but we must scale up the response. Without good leadership people in this country will start to panic. There must be no more time for delay – the time to act is now.”
After the speech, Johnson thanked Allin-Khan for her service in the NHS and said: “We have stockpiles of PPE equipment and we're proceeding in accordance with the best scientific advice.”
The Prime Minister has advised people in Britain to stay at home and avoid social contact, but has stopped short of enforcing a complete lockdown.
At the weekend people were pictured clustered together in parks and on beaches.