December 5, 2020

Coronavirus: Minister defends ‘stay alert’ advice amid backlash

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has insisted now is the right time to update the government’s coronavirus message from “stay at home” to “stay alert”, amid widespread criticism.

PM Boris Johnson announced the slogan for England, telling people to “stay alert, control the virus, save lives”, ahead of a national address later.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are sticking with “stay at home”.

Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon said: “I don’t know what ‘stay alert’ means.”

The first minister added at the daily briefing in Edinburgh: “For Scotland right now, given the fragility of the progress we’ve made, given the critical point that we are at, then it would be catastrophic for me to drop the ‘stay at home’ message.

“I am particularly not prepared to do it in favour of a message that is vague and imprecise.”

Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth warned people might be “puzzled” by the change.

But Mr Jenrick told the BBC’s Andrew Marr: “Stay alert will mean stay alert by staying home as much as possible, but stay alert when you do go out, by maintaining social distancing, washing your hands, respecting others in the workplace and the other settings that you’ll go to.”

A further 269 people have died in the UK after testing positive for coronavirus, taking the total number of deaths recorded to 31,855.

The number of deaths recorded tends to be lower over the weekend because of reporting delays.

The government has also missed its target of 100,000 coronavirus tests a day for the eighth day in a row, with 92,837 tests on Saturday.

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