Britons have reacted with confusion at the government’s newly unveiled coronavirus messaging and have mocked it in a series of memes.
He is expected to officially launch it at 7pm tonight when he addresses the nation to set out a ‘roadmap’ for bringing the country out of a lockdown he imposed on March 23.
But Britons have mocked the change on social media, saying it is confusing and creating their own versions advising people to shout at the virus to scare it off, look after themselves, and avoid injecting bleach.
Politicians have also weighed in, accusing the government of ‘meaningless’ messaging as it is unclear what ‘stay alert’ means. Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told the Andrew Marr show it meant ‘stay at home as much as possible’.
The government’s new coronavirus slogan will be officially unveiled at 7pm tonight. Opposition leaders have criticised it for lack of clarity and devolved governments have said they were not consulted on the change
The new slogan has spawned a tidal wave of memes as the public mocks the government’s change in messaging
Twitter user Olaf Falafel altered the guidance to encourage people to look after themselves
Another likened looking out for coronavirus to watching before crossing a road
And another accused ministers of giving up when they executed the new strategy
Boris Johnson used the new phrase for the first time in a tweet pinned to the top of his Twitter profile. It attempts to iron out confusion surrounding the phrase ‘stay alert’
The torrent of memes mocking the government’s new slogan came just hours before it was due to be officially unveiled by the prime minister.
Writing in his first tweet using the slogan at midday today, the prime minister said: ‘Everyone has a role to play in helping to control the virus by staying alert and following the rules.
‘This is how we can continue to save lives as we start to recover from coronavirus.’
He uses the hashtag ‘StayAlert’ in the tweet as well as posting an image of the new slogan surrounded by green and yellow emergency tape.
Twitter user Olaf Falafel took the government’s template and developed a programme that would allow users to create their own versions.
One version accuses ministers of ‘shirking responsibility’ while a second says they’ve all ‘given up’ and a third asks people to look left and right to check there is no virus before crossing the road.
Others have posted memes in response to the coming announcement, showing the virus as the velociraptors in Jurassic World, rummaging in the fridge for a snack and camouflaging itself in a pub by wearing a top hat.
One tweet, posted from an account picturing Margaret Thatcher, read: ‘We are calling for ‘alert’ volunteers to join our Virus Watch scheme here in Brexit-on-Sea.
‘You will be equipped with a free pair of binoculars to help spot the virus, a net to catch it with and a bag to put it in.’
Twitter user Olaf Falafel also appeared to channel Donald Trump in this messaging update
Memes have also mocked government guidance ahead of the announcement, with one showing the virus as velociraptors in Jurassic World
Meanwhile the SNP MP Stewart Hosie also mocked the the Government’s ‘stay alert’ message
Another showed the virus taking a late night snack from the fridge as the social media user warned others to remain vigilant
And a third showed the virus appearing to be disguised as a lamp shade
Several politicians have laid into the government’s change of message, saying it ‘just won’t cut it’ and criticising the lack of advice issued from Westminster.
Labour’s Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth criticised the message for ambiguity over what ‘stay alert’ actually meant on the Andrew Marr show.
‘When you are dealing with a public health crisis of this nature you need absolute clarity about what the advice is,’ he said.
‘There is no room for nuance. And I think the problem with the new message is that many people will be puzzled by it. They won’t understand what we mean by stay alert.’
While the SNP MP Stewart Hosie mocked the Government’s ‘stay alert’ message in a tweet which read: ‘Ignore Boris, listen to Sturgeon, save lives.’
Labour MP Angela Rayner said the government’s message ‘just won’t cut it’.
‘Without a proper testing and tracing program as well as social distancing measures, any release of the lockdown conditions risks a second peak,’ she said. ‘We have to follow the science and best practices from around the world.’
Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, slammed the government and said she only learnt about the change from the Sunday papers.
In a tweet she 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 most appropriate for England, but given the critical point we are at in tackling the virus, #StayHomeSaveLives remains my clear message to Scotland at this stage.’
Scotland has said it will not be changing its lockdown restrictions at present. Wales has also indicated it prefers the simple original guidance.
The SNP’s leader in Westminster, Ian Blackford, also criticised the change, tweeting: ‘#StayAlert. What kind of a buffoon thinks of this kind of nonsense. It’s an invisible threat. Staying alert is not the answer.’
He accused the government of delivering ‘mixed messages’ today as it began to roll out the slogan, and said devolved administrations and opposition parties had not been consulted.
Labour’s Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth has criticised the government’s ambiguous ‘stay alert’ message, and said people will not understand what it actually means
The government has been slammed as it attempted to roll out the slogan today, after seemingly failing to inform devolved governments in the UK.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick was brought out for Sky’s Sophy Ridge and BBC’s Andrew Marr today to defend the message.
‘I think as we’ve now passed the peak of the virus it’s right that we update and broaden the message to the public,’ he said on Sky.
‘I think that’s what the public wants and that they will be able to understand this message which is that we should be staying at home as much as possible.’
Asked to further clarify the message on Marr, he said: ‘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.
‘This will be a cautious message because the rate of infection is still high and the public is understandably anxious.’
Jenrick was chosen to back the message despite driving 150 miles from London to his £1.1million Grade I listed country mansion in Herefordshire less than six days after lockdown was declared in March.
Mr Johnson will bring the new slogan into official use at 7pm this evening as he announced how the UK will proceed with its coronavirus lockdown.
A raft of further measures are expected including up to two-week quarantines for anyone arriving in the UK from abroad and instructions for Britons to tell family and friends that they have the virus.
A new five-point traffic light system will also be unveiled, which will allow for total lockdown at stage 5 to the resumption of sporting events and vulnerable people leaving their homes at stage one.
Mr Johnson will say this evening that this will allow the government to communicate with the public the differing levels of risk in various parts of the country.
The UK is currently in ‘stage four’ which means the virus has not been contained, as the R number remains above one in some regions.
The PM will also say he is ‘keen to get the economy moving’ while ensuring the country avoids a second wave of the pandemic that has already killed more than 31,000 people.
In the face of accusations about mixed messaging, Mr Johnson posted a fuller version this afternoon spelling out that people are still being urged to ‘stay at home where possible’ and ‘stay alert’ when they do go out.
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