The UK will not lift its Covid-19 lockdown this month, but will roll out an alert system to help judge when and where that easing of restrictions can begin, UK PM Boris Johnson said in a video address.
In a pre-recorded message broadcast Sunday, the PM announced a plan for a new system of alert levels that will be used to implement anti-coronavirus measures based on the rates at which the virus is spreading.
“That Covid Alert Level will tell us how tough we have to be in our social-distancing measures – the lower the level, the fewer the measures,” Johnson explained. “The higher the level, the tougher and stricter we will have to be. There will be five alert levels.”
The UK has been on Level Four during its lockdown, Johnson continued, and now, “thanks to your sacrifice, we are now in a position to begin to move in steps to Level Three.”
The PM signaled that Britain’s lockdown will remain in place until at least June 1, when schools and retailers may be allowed to reopen. Other public venues will remain shut until at least the beginning of July.
It would be madness now to throw away that achievement by allowing a second spike. We must stay alert.
Easing the current lockdown measures, Johnson announced that starting “from this Wednesday, we want to encourage people to take more and even unlimited amounts of outdoor exercise.” At the same time, he promised to increase fines for breaking social-distancing rules, which are being defied by a “small minority” of citizens.
Earlier in the day the prime minister tweeted a picture detailing the tweaked approach to coronavirus. The new government message reads “Stay Alert, Control The Virus, Save Lives,” rather different to the previous slogan “Stay Home, Save Lives, Protect the NHS.” Citizens, however, are still advised to stay home “as much as possible,” while other steps appear to closely resemble the original lockdown measures.
Everyone has a role to play in helping to control the virus by staying alert and following the rules.This is how we can continue to save lives as we start to recover from coronavirus.#StayAlertpic.twitter.com/2z9yl1Fxs4
The new slogan has caused much confusion, as it was not immediately clear what exactly the “Stay Alert” part means. Moreover, the leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland said they had not been consulted about the new slogan at all. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she learned about the change from media. She also took a jab at the vague “Stay Alert” message, stating she will “leave it to the prime minister to explain how dropping the ‘stay at home’ message” includes advice to stay home at the same time.
Johnson’s address was also immediately criticized by his rivals as vague and unclear. The Labour leader Keir Starmer accused the PM of creating confusion, saying that he “appears to be effectively telling millions of people to go back to work without a clear plan for safety.”
“This statement raises more questions than it answers, and we see the prospect of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland pulling in different directions,” Starmer said.
Pretty much this! 📢 pic.twitter.com/joxet4Oc5y
Scotland’s leader Sturgeon has signaled that she might take a separate approach to handling the coronavirus crisis. “Pretty much everything he said in that statement applied to England,” she told BBC Scotland, stressing that “we have a duty to take a decision in our own jurisdictions about the speed with which we lift” the Covid-19 restrictions.
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