On Sunday evening, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson presented “the first tentative steps” to lead the UK out of the corona lockdown. Critics condemn his plans as unclear and the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are also not amused.
In a speech from his official residence on Downing Street, the British Prime Minister on Sunday evening urged all British people who cannot work from home to return to work from Monday. They should avoid public transport as much as possible.
The government’s message was initially that the British should only go to work “when necessary”.
“We must now emphasize that anyone who cannot work from home, for example in construction and manufacturing, should be actively encouraged to go to work,” said Johnson.
The British government had given the impression on Sunday that Johnson would present a “blueprint” that evening for easing the British lockdown, which has now lasted seven weeks.
British are allowed to exercise outside
In that respect, little appeared to change. Johnson announced that as of next Wednesday, British people will be allowed to go out indefinitely for exercise, sunbathing, a round of golf, or outings to nature parks or the beach, provided they only do so with people from their own household and keep enough distance from others.
“Now is not the time to simply end the lockdown,” said the prime minister. “Instead, we are taking the first tentative steps to adjust our measures.”
Johnson outlined what further easing might look like, but it didn’t become very concrete. Schools and some non-essential stores may open again in early June, he said. Restaurants, especially those with terraces, may follow in July. Beloved British pubs will need to be patient for longer.
Prime Minister Johnson is expected to explain the plans in the British House of Commons on Monday.
Critics argue that Sunday evening’s speech was not so much about relaxation as it was about changing the official slogan for the corona crisis. It had already been revealed by the media earlier today: the ‘stay at home’ that the British have frequently heard and seen in recent weeks is exchanged for ‘stay alert’.
Labor leader Keir Starmer told the BBC: “The main message, ‘stay alert’, is simply not clear enough, and the prime minister raised as many questions with his speech as he answered it.”
Johnson’s message also sparked a conflict with the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. They have far-reaching powers of their own in the field of public health, but until Sunday they largely traveled together with England. There is now a break in this.
“I don’t know what ‘stay alert’ means,” Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Sunday. “It would be catastrophic for Scotland right now if I get off the ‘stay at home’ message. I am not at all willing to do that for a message that is unclear and imprecise.”
Welsh Prime Minister Mark Drakeford and Northern Ireland Arlene Foster also adhered to the old slogan.
What is surprising in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast is that the intention to change the message was not heard until Downing Street had already informed the press. “We shouldn’t be reading each other’s plans in the papers,” Sturgeon said.
The Scottish Prime Minister added that while Johnson is free to change policy for England, he should not pretend that it applies across the UK. She said she asked London not to use the new slogan in Scotland.