Health experts criticise government over 'meaningless' new coronavirus slogan

Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary, Robert Jenrick leaves Downing Street as the government is expected to publish an emergency coronavirus powers Bill.
Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick defended the new slogan on Sunday. (PA)

The government’s new coronavirus slogan has been criticised by health figures who raised concerns that it might be misinterpreted by the public.

Prime minister Boris Johnson will change the government’s message from “Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives” to “stay alert, control the virus and save lives” on Sunday.

It comes as the government is set to announce the first wave of measures to reduce the coronavirus lockdown starting on Monday.

But several medical practicioners and university figures spoke out against the new slogan on Twitter after it was revealed, describing the phrase as “meaningless”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson outside Downing Street in London, to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day.
The Prime Minister is set to ease lockdown restrictions from Monday onwards. (PA)

Trisha Greenhalgh, a professor of Primary Care at the University of Oxford, tweeted her own parody version of the slogan: “Deny the evidence. Meaningless slogans. Sacrifice lives.”

She later added: “Public health communication is hard, and I’m not in the business of undermining policymakers for the sake of it, but I think there’s a moral imperative to challenge this particular error given what’s at stake.”

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Dr Evelyn McElhinney, a medical lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian University, said: “What does it mean?

“Additionally, the use of the colour green especially if they are going to use a traffic light type system sends the completely wrong message.”

While professor Devi Sridhar, the chair of Global Public Health at Edinburgh University’s Medical School, tweeted: “If this wasn’t so incredibly tragic, it would almost be comical.”

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick defended the new messaging on Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme, saying it was right to “update and broaden” the slogan.

“I think that’s what the public want and that they will be able to understand this message, which is that we should be staying home as much as possible but when we do go to work and go about our business we need to remain vigilant, we need to stay alert,” he continued.

“And that means things like respecting others, remaining two meters apart, washing your hands, following the social distancing guidelines because the virus continues to be prevalent, too many people are still dying of this and we’re going to have to live with it for a long time.”

Pressed if there is a danger the message is too woolly, Mr Jenrick said: “Well I hope not.

“We need to have a broader message because we want to slowly and cautiously restart the economy and the country.”

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she will continue to use the "stay at home" message in the coming weeks after the “stay alert” message was revealed.

On Sunday morning, Ms Sturgeon tweeted: "The Sunday papers is the first I've seen of the PM's new slogan.

"It is of course for him to decide what's most appropriate for England, but given the critical point we are at in tackling the virus, #StayHomeSaveLives remains my clear message to Scotland at this stage."

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