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'Confusing and a nonsense...' NI politicians and unions reject Boris Johnson's mixed messaging about coronavirus lockdown


Colum Eastwood

Colum Eastwood

Alliance Party MP Stephen Farry

Alliance Party MP Stephen Farry



Colum Eastwood

The Prime Minister's updated lockdown recovery plans with the new 'Stay Alert' message have been rejected by political and trade union leaders in Northern Ireland.

Last night the First and Deputy First Ministers said the Executive will not adopt the UK Government's new slogan, instead sticking with the 'Stay Home, Save Lives' message.

The Stormont Executive is to discuss its own road map for recovery at its meeting today.

It is likely the plan will be published tomorrow when the Assembly sits.

Coronavirus Data Graphs

Speaking last night First Minister Arlene Foster said: "People across Northern Ireland have listened and acted on the public health advice over the last six weeks. They have stayed at home, kept their distance and washed their hands, and because of that they have saved lives.

"We have flattened the curve of infection, reduced the 'R' rate to below one and protected our health service, but we are not out of the woods yet.

"As the Executive begins to finalise our plans for recovery, we need to strike the balance between continuing to protect people's lives and the health service and give people hope for the future.

"The changes that we will introduce will be gradual, proportionate and based on scientific and medical advice and will be taken at the right time and in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland."

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said: "Society has changed beyond all recognition over the past six weeks as people have followed the advice to stay at home and save lives.

"That remains the message. As an Executive, we know it has been tough and we understand the impact the regulations are having on what was once our normal lives.

"But we are at a critical stage in the fight against the virus and so our recovery must be phased, gradual and strategic."

Other parties here have also criticised Boris Johnson's "road map". Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken said: "It is our strong belief that now is not the time to change the message or direction.

"We must continue to keep staying home, keep protecting our NHS and, above all, keep saving lives."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said he had told Mr Johnson the new slogan is "a nonsense".

Alliance Party MP Stephen Farry said the new messaging could cause confusion.

"There will undoubtedly be people in Northern Ireland now left confused as to the best way to approach staying safe during this crisis," he said.

Teachers' union the NASUWT backed the Executive's stance.

General secretary Dr Patrick Roache said: "The NASUWT welcomes the comments by Arlene Foster that Northern Ireland is sticking with the 'Stay Home, Save Lives' message. This reaffirmation of the stay at home message provides clarity for the public and those working in schools."

Trade union Nipsa also said the new message risked confusing people.

"The message is mixed - stay at home if you can, but go to work," general secretary Alison Millar said. "Now is not the time to send out confusing messages."

And the Scottish and Welsh leaders said their devolved regions would not use the Prime Minister's 'Stay Alert' messaging.

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