LONDON

The UK’s main opposition leader on Wednesday called on the prime minister to “get a grip,” saying the public was losing confidence in the government, as health authorities announced that the number of deaths from the coronavirus increased by 359 over the past 24 hours.

The Department of Health tweeted: “As of 9am 3 June, there have been 4,786,219 tests, with 171,829 tests on 2 June. 279,856 people have tested positive.

“As of 5pm on 2 June, of those tested positive for coronavirus, across all settings, 39,728 have sadly died.”

Opposition leader goes on attack

In an exclusive interview with the Guardian published last night, opposition Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told the Guardian: “Boris Johnson has to get a grip and restore public confidence.”

“I am putting the prime minister on notice that he has got to get a grip and restore public confidence in the government’s handling of the epidemic,” he said.

“My [worry] is that after a week or more of mismanagement, I’m deeply concerned the government has made a difficult situation 10 times worse… There is a growing concern the government is now winging it,” he said. “At precisely the time when there should have been maximum trust in the government, confidence has collapsed.”

A poll carried out by YouGov for the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism found that trust in the government over the course of the coronavirus pandemic has plummeted since April.

Less than half, 48%, said the government was relatively trustworthy in late May, down from 67% just six weeks earlier.

Reporting on the poll at the time, the Guardian quoted institute’s director Rasmus Kleis Nielsen as saying: “I have never in 10 years of research in this area seen a drop in trust like what we have seen for the UK government in the course of six weeks.”

Dominic Cummings scandal

Starmer blamed the Dominic Cummings scandal for the drop in public trust in the government.

Cummings is Johnson’s top adviser, and is accused of breaking lockdown rules by driving 264 miles across the country. He defended himself by saying he was doing the best thing for his family, as both he and his wife were becoming ill and had no one to look after their child in London. His explanations have not significantly changed public opinion on the matter.

Both the opposition and members of the ruling party have called for his resignation. The prime minster has stood steadfast by him, however.

“It’s the Cummings factor of course, the sense of one rule for them and one rule for everyone else. But it is also the mismanagement of the lifting of restrictions,” he said.

“They obviously took a decision to try and deflect attention away from the Cummings affair. There are questions that the government needs to answer about the precise timing of the measures it put in place,” he said.

“It’s blindingly obvious to me that the prime minister is just too weak to sack him,” he said.

“That’s the most troubling aspect of the whole Cummings affair.”

“We’ve all seen that loss of trust and confidence at precisely the wrong moment. If you had said which is the week the government needed maximum trust and confidence, the answer is the week in which you start easing restrictions […] That’s where you need maximum trust and confidence. That’s the thing the government has burnt in the last few weeks,” he said.

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