Prime Minister Boris Johnson will on Wednesday make his first appearance in parliament since being hospitalised for coronavirus, the day after Britain became the European country worst hit by the global pandemic.
He faces a new adversary in Keir Starmer, who was elected leader of the main opposition Labour party on April 4 and has called for a ‘national consensus’ on how Britain tackles the outbreak.
Health ministry figures show 29,427 people with COVID-19 have died in Britain, while broader official data put the toll above 32,000 -- making the country second only to the United States in world rankings.
Johnson is expected to be quizzed on why things have gone so wrong during his first weekly prime minister's questions (PMQs) in the House of Commons since March 25.
MPs are also likely to ask about how Britain will end a nationwide stay-at-home order introduced six weeks ago, which has successfully slowed the spread of the virus.
A formal review is due by Thursday, although Johnson is not expected to outline his plans for the future until Sunday.
The 55-year-old announced on March 27 that he had tested positive for coronavirus, and was later admitted to hospital, spending three nights in intensive care.
Johnson returned to work last week but missed PMQs on April 29 after his partner, Carrie Symonds, gave birth to a baby boy that morning.
Starmer, who served as Brexit spokesman under former left-wing leader Jeremy Corbyn, says there must be discussion on how the lockdown ends, including to ensure that workers are properly protected.
‘We want to support the government to get this right and that is why we need a national consensus on what happens next,’ he said earlier this week.
He added: ‘The government was slow to implement the lockdown, slow on testing and slow to get protective personal equipment to frontline workers. We need to learn from those mistakes.’