By Karim El-Bar
LONDON (AA) - Two-thirds of British citizens want an extension to the Brexit transition period in order to focus on the coronavirus outbreak, according to a new poll.
The poll was commissioned by Best for Britain, a pro-EU membership campaign group, and HOPE not Hate, an anti-racism campaign group.
It found that 64% of Brits agreed with the statement “The government should request an extension to the transition period in order to focus properly on the Coronavirus,” with 36% agreeing with the statement “The Brexit transition period must end on 31 December whether a deal has been fixed or not.”
Broken down by party affiliation, center-left Labour voters agreed to an extension by 84%, centrist Liberal Democrat voters by 83%, center-right Conservative voters by 44% and Brexit Party voters by 19%.
By age group, 78% of 18-24 year-olds supported an extension and 52% of 65-year-olds supported the same, indicating cross-generational support.
Naomi Smith, the CEO of Best for Britain, said: “It’s simply not reasonable to expect we will have tied up negotiations with the EU by the end of the year while dealing with a warlike emergency. Nor is it desirable.
“By thinking it can complete both challenges at once, the government would be setting itself up for failure with profound economic consequences.
“Most people just want the government to get on with the job at hand so that lives can be saved and normality restored as quickly as possible.
"This is the case across all age groups and UK regions, which explains why the government is facing calls to extend the transition period from such a wide variety of pressure groups.
“The country is simply not in a place to weather two storms at the moment.”
Nick Lowles, the CEO of HOPE not Hate, said: "EU schemes like the Early Warning and Response System and the ventilator procurement programme are critical tools for responding to this urgent public health crisis.
"Healthcare workers are doing a fantastic job, but they cannot fight this disease alone. They need all the help they can get.
"The government must put politics aside and urgently seek participation in these schemes. It would be foolhardy for ideology to get in the way of practical measures to keep people safe."
The Department of Health reported on Sunday: “As of 9am 29 March, a total of 127,737 have been tested: 108,215 negative, 19,522 positive.
“As of 5pm on 28 March, of those hospitalised in the UK, 1,228 have sadly died.”
Later, health authorities published new numbers, saying the total number of deaths in the U.K. reached 1,235 – an increase of 207 deaths in past 24 hours.
After first appearing in Wuhan, China, last December, the novel coronavirus has spread to at least 177 countries and territories, according to data compiled by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.
The data shows nearly 685,000 cases have been reported worldwide since last December, with the death toll over 32,100 and more than 145,600 recoveries.