Speaking during PMQs on Wednesday, the Labour leader said the prime minister was trying to “wish away” the consequences of a possible 100,000 Covid infections a day driven by the Delta variant.
That number of cases could lead to millions of people being pinged by the NHS Covid-19 phone app and having to self-isolate after coming into contact with a someone who has tested positive.
Starmer said this would be the result of Johnson’s “reckless” plan to lift “all protections” on July 19.
“We all want our economy to open and to get back to normal. The question is whether we do it in a controlled way or a chaotic way,′ he said.
“It won’t feel like ‘freedom day’ to those who have to isolate, when they’re having to cancel their holidays, when they can’t go to the pub or even to their kid’s sports day.
“And it won’t feel like freedom day to the businesses who are already warning of carnage because of the loss of staff and customers.”
Starmer said Labour agreed that some restrictions should be relaxed, but wanted “common sense” rules such as mandatory face masks on public transport to remain beyond July 19.
Johnson defended his plan to end social distancing and remove the face mask law as a “balanced and reasonable approach” given the vaccination rollout was breaking the link between infections and hospitalisations and deaths.
“Of course we can see that it’s common sense for people in confined spaces to wear a face mask out of respect and courtesy to others, such as on the Tube,” he said.
“But what we’re doing is cautiously, prudently moving from legal diktat to allowing people to take personal responsibility for their actions – and that is the right way forward.”