British PM Boris Johnson announces easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions but faces backlash

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a loosening of the UK’s coronavirus lockdown rules but is facing a rebellion from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland over supposed mixed messaging on the changes.

From Wednesday, people in England will be allowed to spend as much time as they want outside and travel to work if they cannot work from home, providing social-distancing measures are followed and the rate of infection stays below one.

“We want to encourage people to take more and even unlimited amounts of outdoor exercise,” Mr Johnson said in a pre-recorded address from Downing Street.

“You can sit in the sun in your local park, you can drive to other destinations, you can even play sports but only with members of your own household.

The UK has been in lockdown since March 23, which limited people to only one form of exercise a day and to venture outside only for essential goods and medicine.

Mr Johnson said those who cannot work from home will now be urged to return to work, preferably by car, bicycle or walking, not by public transport.

“Anyone who can’t work from home, for instance those in construction and manufacturing, should be actively encouraged to go to work,” he said.

All schools and non-essential shops would remain shut in England until at least June, Mr Johnson added, while he said some in the hospitality industry could be open in July at the earliest.


“We have a route, and we have a plan, and everyone in government has the all-consuming pressure and challenge to save lives, restore livelihoods and gradually restore the freedoms that we need.”

Opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer said Mr Johnson’s announcement “lacked clarity” and raised more questions than it answered.

“This statement raises more questions than it answers, and we see the prospect of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland pulling in different directions,” Sir Keir said in a statement.

“What the country wanted tonight was clarity and consensus, but we haven’t got either of those.”

On Sunday the UK’s death toll from coronavirus rose by 269 to 31,855 people, which remains the highest in the world behind the United States.

Government at odds with devolved nations

Over the weekend the British Government unveiled a new slogan — “Stay Alert, Control The Virus, Save Lives” — a departure from the previous “Stay Home, Protect The NHS, Save Lives” slogan from the start of the crisis.


But before Mr Johnson’s Sunday evening announcement the leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all said they would not be dropping the “Stay at Home” messaging.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the only changes she would be making would allow people to exercise more than once a day from Monday, before she hit out at the UK Government’s slogan change.


Ms Sturgeon’s Welsh counterpart Mark Drakeford said the message would not be changed in Wales while Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster also said her nation would continue to use “Stay At Home” message.

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