Thursday 7 May 2020

'Stay Safe, Save Lives' Replaces 'Stay Home' Slogan As UK Eases Lockdown From Monday

Boris Johnson will not announce the 'exit strategy' - which is expected to include a five-point plan for easing lockdown - until Sunday

The 'Stay at Home' message used to convince millions in Britain not to leave the house for approaching two months will be axed and replaced with a new 'Stay Safe, Save Lives' mantra as the lockdown is slowly eased from Monday despite the 'appalling' UK death toll. Boris Johnson's official Downing Street Twitter account has started pumping out the more nuanced message as the Prime Minister (inset yesterday) said some draconian rules he imposed on March 23 will be lifted as part of a five-step plan towards normality amid fears lockdown 'fatigue' is developing in the UK. 

These will begin with the destruction of the 'once a day' exercise rule (Tori Beaumont in Brighton yesterday, main picture) while picnics in parks (Glasgow bottom right), sunbathing and visits to the countryside will be allowed as long as social distancing is maintained - with police (top right in Edinburgh) being told to stop fewer people aside from the most flagrant cases. Pubs and cafes with gardens could also open up again - and the return of non-contact sports such as golf and tennis will be considered, but the vast majority of restrictions will continue for weeks or months. 

On Sunday, Mr Johnson will unveil a series of 'easements' to the nation on TV, with the easing of lockdown based on how much each step of the plan affects the rate of infection - known as 'R' - though lockdown measures will still be extended for another three weeks from today. The government is thought to have drawn up a draft 50-page blueprint to gradually ease lockdown in five staggered steps between now and October - but an 'emergency brake' on some or all of the measures could be applied if a second wave of the deadly virus arrives by the Autumn. 

But the 'exit strategy' will not be announced until Sunday, when Mr Johnson will address the public to lay out the 'easements' to the misery of combating the deadly disease.

The gravity of the situation the UK faces was underlined today as the Bank of England warned GDP will plunge nearly 30 per cent over the first half of this year, and unemployment could hit 9 per cent.

The overall 14 per cent slump estimated for 2020 would wipe around £300billion off output and represent the worst recession for more than 300 years. Extraordinarily, former chancellor Alistair Darling warned this morning that the Bank might have been too optimistic. 

The stay at home message will be replaced with a 'be careful when you're out' mantra, according to one Cabinet minister, who added that the easing of lockdown will be based on how much each step of the plan affects the rate of infection - or R. 

The government is thought to have drawn up a draft 50-page blueprint to gradually ease lockown in staggered steps between now and October.

This blueprint is expected to lead to a five step roadmap to see Britain leave lockdown completely by Autumn - but an 'emergency brake' could be applied if a second wave of the deadly virus arrives.

However, Mr Johnson faces a battle with Nicola Sturgeon and Labour mayors such as Andy Burnham, who have been warning it is too early for major loosening.

Ms Sturgeon said earlier this week that the outbreak in Scotland is worse than the rest of the county, and insisted yesterday that the UK should move 'at the same pace' as the place where infections are worst. The SNP has demanded she must sign off on an exit plan before Mr Johnson unveils it. 

In a round of interview this morning, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis frantically tried to play down public expectations on the scale of the easing, saying 'although we believe we are through the peak of this virus we are very cautious to ensure that we don't get a second peak'. 

A leaked version of the exit plan has revealed:  

Step one: From Monday it is is expected garden centres will reopen, more key workers' children will go to school and more staff to return to businesses that stayed open during lockdown. The 'once a day' exercise rule will also be scrapped and police will be told to stop moving on people sunbathing or sitting on benches, provided they remain two metres from others. Officers will also be told not to stop families travelling to the countryside for walks and picnics;
Step two: From the end of May primary schools will gradually return with smaller classes. Outdoor sports where people enjoy space like golf, tennis and angling could resume.
Step three: From the end of June secondary schools will reopen as well as some outdoor sports and cafes returning. Gatherings of up to 30 people may be allowed;
Step four: From the end of August pubs and restaurants will finally be allowed to reopen - but with strict social distancing rules and reduced diner numbers;

Step five: From October, if the rate of coronavirus cases is low, all remaining areas of the economy will reopen including gyms. Sports fans returning to watch live matches will also be considered;  

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