Covid-19: PM Johnson’s lockdown message under fire as UK death toll crosses 32,000


Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves from 10 Downing Street in central London on May 11, 2020(AFP)


The Boris Johnson government on Monday came under fire from the opposition Labour, leaders of Scotland, Wales and members of the public for allegedly confusing messages on easing lockdown curbs, as the UK-wide death toll reached 32,065.

Johnson dropped the hitherto core message to ‘stay home’ in a widely watched televised address on Sunday evening, but Scotland first minister Nicola Sturgeon pointed out that his announcement applied only to England and that Scotland would retain the ‘stay home’ advice.

The number of coronavirus cases in the UK rose to 223,060, the Department of Health and Social Care said.

Instead of the ‘stay home’ advice, Johnson said people should now ‘stay alert’ and those who cannot work from home should be “actively encouraged” to return to work. But the new advice was promptly criticised by Labour, trade unions and people for lack of clarity.

A 60-page document setting out details of the new official advice was published on Monday afternoon, which included covering the face in public places. A five-stage alert system was also announced.

Labour leader Keir Starmer said: “I was actually quite surprised the prime minister said, effectively in 12 hours’ time, start going back to work without those (guidelines on making workplaces safe) in place”.

“We needed that clarity and it is unravelling a bit this morning because I think the foreign secretary (Dominic Raab) has now said, ‘Well, go back to work doesn’t really mean until Wednesday’, so suddenly it has shifted.”

First ministers of Scotland and Wales said they would retain the ‘stay home’ message.

Sturgeon said: “I think the prime minister has to make it clearer when he is talking only for England. What I don’t think is right for any government to do is to say we’re encouraging people to go back to work who haven’t worked so far before the guidance on what a safe working environment is has been published. That’s the bit that should come first.”

Wales first minister Mark Drakeford added: “There are some differences in the messaging between England and Wales which I am concerned may cause confusion”.

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