Coronavirus: Boris Johnson reveals new advice to stay at home 'as much as possible' amid backlash

May 10, 2020

Boris Johnson has revealed the first details of the government's revised coronavirus rules.

The longstanding official guidance to "stay at home, save lives, protect the NHS" has been amended to "stay alert, control the virus, save lives".

The government's guidance is now:

  • Stay at home as much as possible
  • Work at home if you can
  • Limit contact with other people
  • Keep your distance if you go out (2 metres apart where possible)
  • Wash your hands regularly
  • If you or anyone in your household has symptoms, you all need to self-isolate

Watch Sky News at 7pm tonight for the Prime Minister's pre-recorded address to the nation over ending the lockdown.

The prime minister unveiled the changes in a post on his official Twitter account - where he has removed the "stay at home" slogan from his handle.

His decision to switch to the "stay alert" slogan was criticised by other leaders.

Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she will refuse to switch immediately to the new slogan, with many questioning the notion that people should be alert for a virus which is, by its nature, invisible.

She said she had first learned of "the PM's new slogan" in newspaper reports and that she would not be switching her messaging "given the critical point we are at".

"The Sunday papers is the first I've seen of the PM's new slogan," she said.

"It is of course for him to decide what's most appropriate for England, but given the critical point we are at in tackling the virus, #StayHomeSaveLives remains my clear message to Scotland at this stage."

Speaking to Sky News' Sophy Ridge On Sunday, Wales' First Minister Mark Drakeford also stressed the stay-home slogan had not "gone away" in his nation.

"The message I will be giving to people in Wales is while they must be alert to the continuing danger of coronavirus... staying at home remains the best way that you can protect yourself and others," he said.

"The fewer contacts you have with other people, the more you suppress your own risk and the risk to others.

:: Listen to Sophy Ridge on Sunday on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker

"So being alert is important but staying at home has not gone away."

And Professor Lucy Yardley, who is a member of the government's scientific advisory group (SAGE), which is meant to be guiding coronavirus policy, said had also been unaware of the shift in messaging.

"I've only just heard this new slogan," she said.

"What message we should use, I don't know, but it's certainly true that we're going to have to learn to do something different, we can't just stay at home together.

"We're going to have to learn how to do things safely outside the home, so we're going to have to make this transition."

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said government briefings to newspapers had left the public confused.

"I think the problem with the slogan that has been briefed to some newspapers is that people will looking at it slightly puzzled, questioning what does it mean to stay alert and what are the government saying with that," he said.

"I think some of those briefings to newspapers has led to the situation yesterday and on Friday of lots of people going to parks, enjoying the sunshine."

Andy Burnham, the Labour mayor of Greater Manchester, tweeted that it "feels to me like a mistake to me to drop the clear" stay at home message.

Dave Ward, general secretary of the Communication Workers Union, said: "The messaging from this government throughout this crisis has been a total joke, but their new slogan takes it to a new level."

He added: "Stay alert? It's a deadly virus not a zebra crossing."

Harry Potter author JK Rowling wrote on Twitter: "Is coronavirus sneaking around in a fake moustache and glasses? If we drop our guard, will it slip us a Micky Finn? What the hell is 'stay alert' supposed to mean?"

Writer and comedian Adam Kay added that it would be "difficult to stay alert to something that's 0.0001 millimetres in diameter. This pandemic is going to have as many spikes as a coronavirus".

Junior doctor Julia Simons tweeted: "Please can someone tell Boris coronavirus is not a physical assailant? You can't stay alert to single-stranded RNA."

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told Sky News a "broader" slogan was needed as the government looked to restart the economy.

"I think that's what the public want and that they will be able to understand this message, which is that we should be staying home as much as possible but when we do go to work and go about our business we need to remain vigilant, we need to stay alert," he said.

Asked on Sky News' Sophy Ridge On Sunday if there was a danger the message was too woolly, Mr Jenrick said: "Well I hope not.

"We need to have a broader message because we want to slowly and cautiously restart the economy and the country."

The slogan is expected to be officially revealed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson this evening as part of a coronavirus warning system.

The system will have five levels which will provide a path to the end of lockdown restrictions.

Mr Johnson will urge workers who cannot work from home to begin returning to their workplaces while following social distancing rules.

He will chair a meeting of the emergency Cobra committee with cabinet ministers, leaders of the devolved nations, and London Mayor Sadiq Khan before his 7pm pre-recorded address.

More than 31,000 people have died in the UK after testing positive for the coronavirus.

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