British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set out a cautious plan to get the nation back to work, including advice to wear a homemade face covering.
However his attempt to unwind the coronavirus lockdown prompted confusion and even satire.
“Our plan must countenance a situation where we are in this, together, for the long haul, even while doing all we can to avoid that outcome,” Johnson said in a foreword to the 51-page “Our Plan to Rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy”.
“It is likely that COVID-19 will circulate in the human population long-term, possibly causing periodic epidemics,” the plan said.
“In the near future, large epidemic waves cannot be excluded without continuing some measures.”
The plan includes a staged undertaking to allow businesses to reopen, advice on avoiding public transport and wearing face coverings as well as a 14-day quarantine for most international arrivals.
There was a lack of specific detail, though, on what employers should do to ensure the safety of workers.
The leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland said they were sticking with the existing “stay-at-home” message.
Opposition parties said Johnson’s “Stay Alert” message was meaningless against a virus invisible to the naked eye, and his messaging was confusing.
After weeks of declining to tell the British people to wear face coverings amid contradictory scientific advice on the utility of such masks, the government said face coverings should be worn in enclosed spaces where distancing is impossible.
“Homemade cloth face-coverings can help reduce the risk of transmission in some circumstances,” said the plan, published on Monday.
“Face-coverings are not intended to help the wearer, but to protect against inadvertent transmission of the disease to others if you have it asymptomatically.”
Public Health England even published an accompanying description on how to make a face covering from an old T-shirt, along with cutting advice and how to sew a homemade face covering.
Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer said Johnson’s presentation had raised many questions and was perplexing.
“It’s a bit all over the place,” Starmer said.
Trade union leader Len McCluskey said Johnson had confused people.
“Millions of people this morning will be completely dumbfounded,” McCluskey said.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the only modification she was making to lockdown measures was to allow people to exercise more.
Johnson’s stern address to the nation prompted satire.
“So we are saying don’t go to work, go to work, don’t take public transport, go to work, don’t go to work,” comedian Matt Lucas said in a short video which was watched almost four million times on Twitter.
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