Boris Johnson called on people across the UK on Sunday to return to work if they cannot do so from home, as the Prime Minister laid out his vision for gradually restarting the economy.
The government’s previous stance was that people should only go to work “if they must,” Johnson said. “We now need to stress that anyone who can’t work from home, for instance those in construction or manufacturing, should be actively encouraged to go to work.”
Also from Wednesday, people in the UK will be able to sunbathe in their local parks, exercise as much as they want and drive to other destinations, he said.
In a pre-recorded televised statement on Sunday evening, Johnson unveiled a road map to resuming activity in the country following more than six weeks under lockdown. He characterized his plan as a cautious balance between keeping new infections down while easing the economic burden the pandemic has had on millions in the UK.
Until Johnson’s announcement, residents whose jobs were considered non-essential were advised to leave home only for local exercise once a day and to buy food or medicine.
“From this Wednesday we want to encourage people to take more and even unlimited amounts of outdoor exercise,” he said, adding that social distancing measures would stay in place.
“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.”
Johnson announced several other new measures:
- People returning to work should avoid public transport where possible.
- Quarantining people entering the country by air would come into place “soon.”
- A new five-tier alert system, like one the UK uses for terror threats, will be employed by a biosecurity center.
- The advice and slogan “Stay at home” to save lives is now “Stay alert.”
- Primary schools could open from June 1, but that is the best-case scenario.
- More shops and the hospitality sector could reopen in July, depending on circumstances.
Keir Starmer, the leader of the main opposition Labour Party, said that Johnson’s statement lacked the clarity the nation was looking for.
“The basic message, stay alert, just isn’t clear enough and the Prime Minister’s statement raises just as many questions as it answers,” he said in remarks to the BBC.
“I think there are real problems here. Basically, those that can’t work at home are being told to go to work tomorrow. That’s millions of people and that means go to work in about 12 hours’ time, mixed with the message that if it’s possible to do so, don’t use public transport — that’s quite a thing to spring on people for tomorrow morning.”
The message to “stay alert,” which Johnson announced earlier Sunday on Twitter, has been met with criticism, and ridiculed on social media, for its vagueness.
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