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Johnson revamps coronavirus message ahead of lockdown changes

British prime minister Boris Johnson has stressed his reluctance to emerge too soon from the nationwide lockdown.
British prime minister Boris Johnson has stressed his reluctance to emerge too soon from the nationwide lockdown. Via REUTERS - PIPPA FOWLES/10 DOWNING STREET
3 min

Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, injected a new slogan into his country’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic on Sunday as he prepared to outline the latest strategy to ease lockdown measures.


Johnson tweeted “stay alert” as a replacement for the "stay home, save lives” advice that had accompanied the six weeks of restrictions throughout Britain.

The new message urges people to stay at home as much as possible and limit contact with others.

The guidance appears more relaxed than previous rules to only go outside when necessary.

More of the same

In a televised address to the nation on Sunday night, Johnson is expected to extend most of the stay-at-home orders imposed in late March, although garden centres are set to reopen.

It is understood he will say British ministers are looking at a plan to contain infection rates in the longer term by imposing a 14-day quarantine on anyone entering the country.

An alert system is also being developed to monitor the outbreak. This will say when and how lockdown measures might be eased or beefed up regionally or nationally.

In an interview with the Sun on Sunday newspaper, Johnson warned that the danger from the coronavirus had not abated.

"We're past the peak now but we'll have to work even harder to get every step right," he said.

"Mountaineers always say that coming down from the peak is the most dangerous bit. That's when you're liable to be over-confident and make mistakes.

Time to be cautious

"You have very few options on the climb up, but it's on the descent you have to make sure you don't run too fast, lose control and stumble."

Britain’s death toll has risen to more than 31,000 - the highest in Europe and second behind the United States.

Johnson has been accused of underestimating the gravity of the coronavirus. He was still shaking hands in early March and delayed a lockdown even as the death toll mounted in Italy.

However, two months on and having himself fallen victim to the illness, he has been reluctant to lift those restrictions. 

That reticence appeared justified on Sunday in the light of data emerging from Germany. 

A few days after Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed for the provinces to ease restrictions, health officials have reported a rise in the number of infections.

The Robert Koch Institute for disease control said the number of people each sick person now infects – known as the reproduction rate, or R – had risen to 1.1.

The institute said the confirmed number of new coronavirus cases had increased by 667 to 169,218, while the death toll was up by 26 to 7,395.


“It is too early to infer whether the number of new infections will continue to decrease as in the past weeks or increase again,” the institute said.

Karl Lauterbach, a Social Democrat member of parliament and professor of epidemiology, was less circumspect. 

He said that the new coronavirus could start spreading again quickly after seeing large crowds out on Saturday in his home city of Cologne.

“It has to be expected that the R rate will go over 1 and we will return to exponential growth,” Lauterbach said in a tweet. “The loosening measures were far too poorly prepared.”

From Monday in France, hair salons, clothes shops, florists and bookshops will open again. Primary schools will take small numbers of pupils, depending on space.

More buses, metros, trams and trains will run in Paris to cope with the expected influx of office workers who will be obliged to wear a mask during journeys.

Bars, restaurants, theatres and cinemas wiil remain closed until at least the beginning of June. 



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