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New 'stay alert' slogan defended by Prime Minister as Scotland sticks to 'stay at home' message


By Gregor White

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been giving more detail of moves to relax lockdown restrictions in England after criticism the message was vague and potentially dangerous.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have not moved to introduce the same easing of lockdown measures as are coming into effect in England.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland was sticking with the "stay at home" message.

In England the message has changed to "stay alert".

At last night's Downing Street briefing Mr Johnson said: "For those who think 'stay alert' is not the right message I think it is absolutely the right message for our country now."

He said that France had introduced a similar slogan today.

Elsewhere, and in the face of criticism that the message on the easing of restrictions in England had so far been unclear or confusing, Mr Johnson sought to clarify what is being implemented.

After saying yesterday that people who cannot work from home should be "encouraged" to go back to work he said last night that people within that category should "talk to employers" about returning.

"The key thing is those places of employment should be safe and there is guidance we are publishing today and tomorrow about how to make places of work Covid-secure and make public transport secure and only on that basis will we be encouraging people to go back to work," he said.

"I don't think any of us expect tomorrow or for the rest of the week a big flood of people back to work, but people should think about whether they fall into that category (of working in an environment it would be safe to return to) and whether it is time to phone up their employer to see if they fit into that category."

He was also questioned about new measures allowing people to meet up socially with others from outwith their own household for the first time since lockdown began

"You can go to the park to exercise on your own in an unlimited way," he said. "You can also go with members of your own household, but if you want to meet somebody from outside your own household that has got to be you and one other person as a pair and observing social distancing.

"It has to be a one-on-one thing and with social distancing."

The UK government's chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, said: "Really what we are trying to do is to take very small steps that allow us to be sure we are not going to end up with an increase in transmission of the virus."

Asked about whether he and chief scientific adviser to the UK government, Sir Patrick Vallance, had approved the "stay alert" message both men said they had been involved in discussions about lockdown measures at every stage, though Mr Whitty said he was "not a comms expert" and was not going to pretend to be one.

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