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Lockdown: Government changes message from stay at home to stay alert

PUBLISHED: 16:27 10 May 2020 | UPDATED: 16:27 10 May 2020

Health experts have expressed concern that the prime minister's new 'stay alert' slogan lacks clarity. Picture: PA

Health experts have expressed concern that the prime minister's new 'stay alert' slogan lacks clarity. Picture: PA

PA Wire/PA Images

The official government advice to the public on coronavirus has changed to “stay alert, control the virus, save lives”, dropping the previous stricter message that people should stay home unless it is absolutely necessary to go out.

Health experts have expressed concern that the new slogan lacks clarity and may lead to an increase in “risky behaviour” from the public.

It comes more than six weeks after the prime minister imposed the UK lockdown on March 23, telling people to stay home and only leave for “very limited” and essential purposes.

These included shopping for basic necessities, once-a-day exercise, medical needs and travelling to work, but only when it could not be done from home.

The government then adopted the slogan: “Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives.”

Seeking to clarify the new advice, 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.

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Official guidance from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) added that people should continue to work from home where possible and wash hands regularly.

But Professor Til Wykes, vice dean of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London, said the phrasing of “stay alert” was unclear and open to misinterpretation.

“The one thing that helps the population is clear, concise and accurate messaging,” he said.

“This one is concise only. The previous message to stay home was at least clear. What does stay alert mean?

“It will just be confusing, be open to misinterpretation and likely to increase risky behaviour - that means taking risks that will affect everyone and increase infections.”

The “stay alert” message comes amid reports of new spikes of the disease in countries where outbreaks had been declining.

China recorded 14 new cases on Sunday, its first double-digit rise in more than a week, and South Korea reported 34 more infections, the largest daily increase in over a month.

Germany has also seen some regional spikes and authorities have expressed concern about a growing number of large anti-lockdown demonstrations.

However, the leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have rejected the new “stay alert” advice in favour of keeping the “stay at home” message.


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