The Government’s new “stay alert” slogan for the next stage of the UK’s fight against coronavirus has divided opinion.
The “stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives” message that has been drilled into the public for weeks is expected to be dropped for a call to “stay alert, control the virus, save lives”.
Boris Johnson is expected to unveil a five-tier warning system during his address to the nation tonight similar to that used for terror attacks, ranging from level one to level five at the most severe, with Britain currently on level four.
The new system will be assessed by a Joint Biosecurity Centre which will be tasked with identifying local spikes of infections.
The Prime Minister is planning to urge workers who cannot do their jobs from home to begin returning to their workplaces while following social-distancing rules.
The new slogan is understood to have been drawn up by Australian strategist Isaac Levido and Ben Guerin, the Conservatives’ 2019 election social media strategist.
Social media users flocked to question whether “alert” was too weak a word.
Top-selling Harry Potter author JK Rowling responded immediately saying: “Is Coronavirus sneaking around in a fake moustache and glasses? If we drop our guard, will it slip us a Micky Finn? What the hell is ‘stay alert’ supposed to mean?”
Is Coronavirus sneaking around in a fake moustache and glasses? If we drop our guard, will it slip us a Micky Finn? What the hell is ‘stay alert’ supposed to mean? pic.twitter.com/8cUmAVBVL7
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling)
Andy Burnham, the Labour Mayor of Greater Manchester, tweeted that it “feels to me like a mistake to me to drop the clear” stay at home message.
One critic posted an image of the new slogan, adding: “What would happen if you gave an Apprentice candidate 2 hours to design a pandemic slogan”.
What would happen if you gave an Apprentice candidate 2 hours to design a pandemic slogan.
‘We should make it look as radioactive as possible’
‘And it should say #StayAlert‘
‘But that doesn’t make any se…..
‘Print it, I’m team leader on this task and we’ve a deadline here’ pic.twitter.com/XmehxZk4jc
— Paddy Ross (@PaddyRoss1)
But in a since-deleted tweet, the Bruges Group think tank praised the message. “The Government’s new slogan is good. Green replaces red for a calmer feel,” it wrote.
“‘Stay Alert’ replaces ‘Stay Home’ and underlines individual responsibility. ‘Control the Virus’ is a positive message. It’s within our power to achieve.”
Another accused the Government of “infantilising the population”, while others accused ministers of “mixed messaging”.
Twitter user Dr Xand van Tulleken jibed: “6:22 on Sunday morning. I’m alert. Are you?”
— Loz Argyle ⚓ (@ArgyleLoz)
Addressing the criticism on Sunday morning, Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick told Sky’s Sophie Ridge: “As we’ve now passed the peak of the virus, it’s right that we update and broaden the message to the public.”
He added: “We should be staying at home as much as possible, but when we do go to work and go about our business we need to remain vigilant.”
It follows warnings from top scientists that the country’s death toll could hit 100,000 if social distancing restrictions are eased too quickly.
Experts at the London School of Tropical Hygiene, Imperial College London and others concluded in a report, seen by the Sunday Times, that there is “very limited room for manoueuvre”.
But unions have warned ministers that their three million members will not feel comfortable for returning to work given the stay-at-home message of recent weeks.
“The trade union movement wants to be able to recommend the Government’s back-to-work plans,” Unison, Unite, the GMB, Usdaw and the Trades Union Congress wrote in a letter to the Observer.
“But for us to do that we need to ensure that ministers have listened and that we stay safe and save lives at work too.”
Mr Johnson acknowledged the scale of the danger, saying “we’ll have to work even harder to get every step right” now the peak is passed, before making a mountaineering analogy.
“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,” he told the Sun on Sunday
He added ahead of the announcement later: “This is the dangerous bit.”
The PM will chair a meeting of the emergency Cobra committee with Cabinet ministers, leaders of the devolved nations and London Mayor Sadiq Khan before his 7pm pre-recorded address.
On Monday, the Government will publish a 50-page document outlining the full plan to cautiously re-start the economy to MPs after figures suggested the overall death toll for the UK has passed 36,500.
The UK’s official death toll rose by 346 to 31,587 on Saturday, as police admitted they were “fighting a losing battle” with trying to keep Brits at home over the sunny Bank Holiday weekend.
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