Nicola Sturgeon has said she will continue to deliver the “stay at home” coronavirus messaging to the Scottish public, as a clear rift in the UK's response opened up ahead of Boris Johnson’s address to the nation.
On Sunday evening, the prime minister will tell the country to “stay alert, control the virus and save lives”, rather than the “stay at home, protect the NHS, and save lives” message that has been deployed since the start of the lockdown.
Mr Johnson is expected to provide a “roadmap” for the gradual relaxation of certain measures in England, but the large parts of the lockdown are expected to remain in force for the coming weeks to avoid a deadly second peak of the virus.
Attempting to explain the new message, communities secretary Robert Jenrick told the BBC it will mean “stay alert by staying at home as much as possible”, amid accusations the new slogan risks ambiguity.
He added: “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 will go to.”
But posting on social media, Ms Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, who is expected to attend the UK government’s emergency Cobra meeting later today, said: “The Sunday papers is the first I’ve seen of the PM’s new slogan.
“It is of course for him to decide what’s more appropriate for England, but given the crucial point we are at in tackling the virus, #StayHomeSaveLives remains my clear message to Scotland at this stage.”
Echoing her comments, Vaughan Gething, the minister for health in Wales, also said the Welsh government had not been agreement “or discussion” on the new messaging briefed by No 10 to the media.
He said the message to the public had not changed, adding: “Stay at home and if you do go out observe the social distancing rules.”
Ms Sturgeon’s colleague and SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford added the devolved governments of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland had not been consulted on the new messaging and said Scotland would stick with “stay at home save lives”.
He continued: “What kind of buffoon thinks of this kind of nonsense. It is an invisible threat. Staying alert is not the answer.”
Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth also said the new “stay alert” messaging could stoke confusion, adding: “We need absolutely clarity from Boris Johnson. There’s no room for nuance on this.
"This virus exploits ambivalence, it thrives on ambiguity and I think the problem with the slogan that has been briefed to the newspapers is people will be looking slightly puzzled, questioning 'What does it mean to stay alert? What are the government saying with that?'
"So I hope that Boris Johnson will offer us that crystal-clear clarity tonight that is desperately needed."
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