Boris Johnson will come under fresh criticism over his handling of the coronavirus crisis when he faces Sir Keir Starmer for the first time during Prime Minister’s Questions.
The PM will return to the Commons for Westminster’s set-piece event on Wednesday, a day after the UK’s official death toll became the highest in Europe.
The Labour leader is expected to question Johnson on the Government’s response to the crisis and also pressure him to set out a detailed plan on easing the lockdown.
It will be the first time Johnson has taken questions in Parliament since returning to Downing Street after his admission to hospital with Covid-19.
Though more than 32,000 have died in the UK during the pandemic, the rate has been slowing and the PM is expected to unveil his “roadmap” of future steps later this week.
Sir Keir, who took over as Labour leader last month, has called for Johnson to form a “national consensus” on easing restrictions while protecting public health.
The PM has not taken questions in the Commons since March 25 before Parliament broke early for Easter as MPs struggled to keep their distance in the Palace of Westminster.
He returned to Downing Street last week after recovering from Covid-19, but foreign secretary Dominic Raab deputised for him in PMQs as Johnson welcomed the birth of his new son.
Raab on Tuesday warned the “next stage won’t be easy” but he said ministers want to ensure it is “more comfortable, is more sustainable and prevents lasting damage to jobs and livelihoods”.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who is involved in UK-wide decision-making through the Cobra system, had earlier set out her own blueprint for easing the lockdown.
Among measures being considering in Scotland is the possibility of joining a social “bubble” containing small groups of friends and family from different households for gatherings, even if that was only possible outdoors.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman confirmed the possibility of easing restrictions outdoors was also under consideration in Westminster, pointing towards evidence showing “there is less likelihood of transmission of this disease outdoors than indoors”.
The prospect of the UK edging towards life after lockdown came as figures showed a total of 32,375 deaths involving Covid-19 have now been registered across the UK.
In Italy, the European country which first suffered an outbreak on a horrific scale, that figure stood at 29,315 as of 5pm on Tuesday.
But Downing Street has warned against comparing different nations’ death tolls, with the true extent of the loss not likely to be fully realised for months to come.