UK lockdown changes prompt confusion and division
The British government has published a more detailed timetable for easing lockdown restrictions after a speech by Prime Minister Boris Johnson was widely criticised for lacking of clarity.
In a fifty-page document, the UK government for the first time advised that face coverings should be worn on public transport and in shops and said that meeting another person outside would be allowed.
It came after a pre-recorded speech by Mr. Johnson was broadcast on Sunday evening, announcing that the government’s ‘stay at home’ slogan would be replaced with ‘stay alert’, a message that was immediately condemned by opposition parties as ambiguous and raised more questions than answers.
Under the government’s new proposals, Mr Johnson said those that could work from home should remain doing so but those who can’t (e.g. construction and factory workers) should be “actively encouraged” to go to work but should try not to use public transport. Comedian Matt Lucas’ parody of the Prime Minister’s muddled message quickly went viral.
it’s a privilege to live in a country where you can do this to the premier with zero repercussions, don’t ever take it for granted pic.twitter.com/B38ouSE9uB— Jim Pickard (@PickardJE) May 10, 2020
On a more ominous note, CCTV emerged of packed tube trains on Monday morning with many commuters not wearing face covering. Trade unions condemned the late notice of the announcement and lack of reassurance over workplace protection.
Meanwhile, figures by the Office of National Statistics revealed that workers in low-skilled jobs such as security guards and taxi drivers are among those at highest risk of dying from Covid-19.
While the vulnerable and elderly are still advised to stay at home, government officials briefed after Mr Johnson’s speech that others could meet a friend or family member outside whilst maintaining a distance of two metres.
However, this proposal was contradicted multiple times throughout Monday morning as spokesmen gave conflicting answers to questions from journalists, prompting outrage by presenters even on widely popular, non-political programmes.
Mr Johnson also touted a phased reopening of shops and primary schools from June 1st and parts of the hospitality industry by July if infection rates have declined significantly.
The fragile relations between Westminster and the UK’s regional authorities were exposed after Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced “I don’t know what ‘stay alert’ means” and revealed that, apart from some relaxation on exercise rules, Scotland would be continuing to apply a ‘stay at home’ policy.
The devolved governments of Wales and Northern Ireland expressed similar sentiments meaning that Mr Johnson’s new guidelines effectively only apply to England. This raised yet further questions over whether a builder living in Scotland but working in England would be allowed to travel to work.
Mr. Johnson is due to give further updates on lockdown strategy on Monday evening in a Q&A with the press and public.
On Monday another 210 coronavirus fatalities were reported in the UK, bringing the national death toll up to 32,065 – the second highest in the world.
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