Boris Johnson attempts to clarify new Covid-19 'Stay alert' slogan amid criticism

Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a statement outside 10 Downing Street, London, as he resumes working after spending two weeks recovering

Boris Johnson has sought to clarify the meaning of the Government's new "Stay alert, control the virus, save lives" coronavirus slogan.

Many have criticised the change from "Stay home, save lives, protect the NHS", which has been the message thus far during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Prime Minister confirmed the use of the new slogan, when he tweeted: “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. #StayAlert.”

A No 10 spokesman said the public can stay alert by “staying at home as much as possible”, “limiting contact with other people” and keeping two metres apart where possible.

“We can control the virus by keeping the rate of infection (R) and the number of infections down,” the spokesman said.

“This is how we can continue to save lives and livelihoods as we start to recover from coronavirus.

“Everyone has a role to play in keeping the rate of infection (R) down by staying alert and following the rules.”

The new slogan for the next phase in the fight against coronavirus has drawn a lot of scorn.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland will be not using the new slogan, while leaders in Northern Ireland and Wales also insist the stay at home message will be maintained.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the Government’s new slogan risks ambiguity.

He added: “We need absolute clarity from Boris Johnson. There’s no room for nuance in this.

“This virus exploits ambivalence, it thrives on ambiguity and I think the problem with the slogan that has been briefed to the newspapers is people will be looking slightly puzzled, questioning ‘What does it mean to stay alert? What are the Government saying with that?’

“So I hope that Boris Johnson will offer us that crystal-clear clarity tonight that is desperately needed.”

Top-selling Harry Potter author JK Rowling immediately hit out by saying: “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?”

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.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick sought to explain what the Government’s new “stay alert” message means.

“Stay alert will mean stay alert by staying home as much as possible,” he told The Andrew Marr Show on the BBC.

“But stay alert when you do go out by maintaining social distancing, washing your hands, respecting others in the workplace and the other settings that you will go to.”

Mr Johnson is expected to unveil a coronavirus warning system when he outlines his plans to gradually ease the lockdown while dropping the “stay home” slogan.

He is set to outline his “road map” to a new normality during an address to the nation on Sunday.

Mr Johnson is planning to urge workers who cannot do their jobs from home to begin returning to their workplaces while following social-distancing rules.

The old message was to ‘stay home’ Credit: PA

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 wondered: “Stay alert? It’s a deadly virus not a zebra crossing.”

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”.

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