Localised lockdowns could be used to tackle coronavirus hotspots as the government moves to restart the economy, a cabinet minister has told Sky News.
Speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said that as the COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed nationally, outbreaks in specific communities, towns and even schools could see “particular measures” imposed.
With the prime minister due to lay out a roadmap for easing the current lockdown, Mr Jenrick also said the government’s “strong preference” is that leaders of the devolved nations agreed to maintain a UK-wide approach to the coronavirus.
However, splits have immediately opened up, with Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon insisting will continue to use the “stay at home” message to tackle the coronavirus crisis.
Boris Johnson is to ditch the phrase and instead tell people to “stay alert, control the virus and save lives”.
But Ms Sturgeon said the first she had heard of the “the PM’s new slogan” was in newspaper reports and that she would not be switching “given the critical point we are at”.
Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford also said the stay at home message had “not gone away” and told Ridge that it “remains the best way you can protect yourself and others”.
In his address to the nation, Mr Johnson will unveil a five-level coronavirus warning system when he outlines his plans to gradually relax restrictions and urge workers who cannot do their jobs from home to begin resuming their roles, while observing social-distancing rules.
Mr Jenrick told Ridge: “At the moment we believe the country is at four on a scale of five with five being the most concerning and our aspiration is to bring that down as swiftly as we can to three.
“And at each stage, at each of those milestones, we will be in a position to open up and restart more aspects of the economy and of our lives.”
He added: “The evidence behind it will also be able to inform what we do at a local level and if we see there are outbreaks in particular localities, neighbourhoods, schools, towns, then we may be able to take particular measures in those places as we build up a more sophisticated and longer-term response to controlling the virus.”
Mr Jenrick also defended the change in slogan, telling Ridge there was a need to “update and broaden” the message to the public.
He said: “We need to have a broader message because we want to slowly and cautiously restart the economy and the country.”
He went on: “We’re not going to take risks with the public. I understand people are anxious about the future but we want now to have a message which encourages people to go to work.
“Staying home will still be an important part of the message but you will be able to go to work and you will in time be able to do some other activities that you’re not able to do today.”
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