Boris Johnson has unveiled the first steps out of the coronavirus lockdown with a new slogan that had already been rejected by the first ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The UK’s ‘stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives’ slogan will still be the key message everywhere across the nation, except in England, where it is now: “stay alert, control the virus, save lives”.
“I don’t know what ‘stay alert’ means,” Nicola Sturgeon told today’s daily coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh, adding “it would be catastrophic for me to drop the ‘stay at home’ message” given the critical point the country is at.
“I am particularly not prepared to do it in favour of a message that is vague and imprecise.”
Covid Alert System
Prime Minister Johnson confirmed the changed message before tonight’s speech to the nation in which he outlined the government’s plan to reopen the country but announced there will be no early lifting of restrictions.
The highly conditional route out of lockdown is, Johnson warned, dependent on the R-rate – the rate at which infection is spreading – and will be governed by a new five level Covid Alert System.
“If the science allows it,” the prime minister said primary schools could reopen in June and the following month could see the return of parts of the hospitality industry.
From Wednesday (May 13) people in England will be able to exercise for longer periods outside and perhaps the biggest change was the formal call for people unable to work from home – such as in construction and manufacturing – to return to their employment, in the morning.
People should be “actively encouraged” to return to work but should avoid using public transport which will be restricted by social distancing measures, said the PM.
He also confirmed anyone breaching the lockdown laws will be subject to a higher fine and that it would “soon be time” to quarantine air-passengers arriving into the country.
‘PM’s announcement only applies to England’ – Sturgeon
Sturgeon said Johnson’s announcement – apart from the possible quarantining at UK borders – applied only to people in England. The PM needed to stress that point “a bit more strongly than he did tonight”, said the first minister.
Earlier Sturgeon said she had asked the UK government not to advertise the new messaging in Scotland and was scathing about learning of the new slogan in the Sunday Telegraph rather than first and from No10. “We should not be reading of each other’s plans in newspapers.”
“Let me be very blunt”, said Sturgeon, mixed messages mean “people will die unnecessarily”.
“You must stay at home” was the clear message voiced on the Welsh government’s Twitter which retweeted first minister Mark Drakeford, who said his “message to the people of Wales hasn’t changed”, adding: “Staying at home is the best way you can protect yourself and others. If you do need to leave the house for essential purposes, including exercise, it is vital that you keep 2 metres apart from others.”
‘Back to what will be a different normality’ – Foster
Northern Ireland’s first minister Arlene Foster told BBC NI: “On the whole, the message is to stay at home. We will say we are not deviating from the message at this time.”
Earlier Foster had told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: There are differences across the UK, regional differences; I think the prime minister recognises those regional differences and, as a result, you may see slight differences across the UK.”
It is important that we do what is right in our region of the United Kingdom moving forward. That is why we are coming with our road plan early next week. It will set out how we can take graduated steps back to what will be a different normality.”