Adverts bearing the advice “keep our distance, wash our hands, think of others and play our part” have been spotted in recent days without much publicity.
A government minister has said the new instructions have been deployed to clarify the new communication, which in full reads “stay alert, control the virus, save lives”.
Justice secretary Robert Buckland said to Sky News: “‘Stay alert’ is very much still part of what it is all about.
“I think what we’re trying to do is explain underneath that general direction what that means.
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“Of course the different elements to staying alert, which include washing hands, keeping our distance, builds up to that general approach, which is that we all must be very much aware not only of each other but what we can do in order to minimise the inadvertent transmission of this terrible disease.”
The government has defended the “stay alert” slogan, with communities secretary Robert Jenrick previously saying it was time to “update and broaden” the communication after Boris Johnson eased lockdown restrictions in England.
Devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland said they were not consulted before the government changed to the new slogan from “stay at home” earlier this month.
Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon said she thought the message was “vague and imprecise” and could prove “catastrophic”. Her government has continued to encourage people to stay at home.
Buckland admitted it was “more difficult” to explain than the “stay home” slogan it replaced because it involved “more nuanced messages”.
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He added: “It is going to be a tough ask, it is a very difficult time for everybody and the government doesn’t pretend anything otherwise.
“We have to keep developing those messages and that’s why you’re hearing that kind of detail.”