Can Johnson’s new ‘Stay Alert’ get Covid-19 easing done?

Is the political battle over Covid-19 about semantics?

Boris Johnson’s UK government is fond of a slogan – ‘Get Brexit Done’ and all that – but now there’s a battle about its shift to ‘Stay Alert’ as the UK moves tentatively towards removing the lockdown with the Scots and Welsh authorities sticking ‘Stay Home.’

In essence Johnson and his advisers – Dominic Cummings in the lead presumably – are saying: “use your common sense.” But expecting people to go back to work avoiding public transport is a big, possibly impossible, ask. What if you don’t have a car; many people in London don’t. People working in factories tend not to live within walking distance.

This week’s U-turn was a screecher. Early last week the papers were full of stories of sun-kissed freedom (presumably at someone in government’s behest), by Thursday following a meeting of the mysterious SAGE Committee of supposed medical experts, the story was rather different. Today the Sun, which was caught out by the U-turn, seems to have got it right.

‘Ready, steady, slow’ would suit most people if the Government can stick to it. But that depends on the rate of new infections (bound to go up with more testing) and deaths.

Johnson, who almost died from the virus and has just become a father (again) currently enjoys much public goodwill. But this particular balancing act – and the way it’s marketed to the public – may be the biggest test yet.

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About Stephen Foster

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Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.