Coronavirus: Newspapers urged to stop confusing British public over lockdown

People social distance as they queue to enter a shop on a high street, as the country continues its lockdown to help curb the spread of the virus, in London, Monday, April 27, 2020. While Britain is still in lockdown, some nations have begun gradually easing coronavirus lockdowns, each pursuing its own approach but all with a common goal in mind, restarting their economies without triggering a new wave of infections. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Ministers have warned the British press not to confuse the public by speculating over changes to lockdown measures ahead of next week. (PA)

The British press has been urged not to confuse the public over the lifting of coronavirus lockdown measures ahead of Boris Johnson’s plan to announce a “roadmap” of a UK exit strategy on Sunday.

The Welsh government accused the media of sending "mixed messages" about easing the current lockdown.

It comes after various reports not confirmed publicly by ministers emerged in the papers about how the government plans to ease the strict lockdown rules on Monday.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner tweeted: “Highest #coronavirus death rates in Europe, PPE failures, Testing failures, Care Home support failures, Lockdown late, No clear plan for next phase, these are NOT a success!

Screen grab of Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19).
Dominic Raab confirmed on Thursday that lockdown measures remain in place over the bank holiday weekend. (PA)

“Now we have the right wing press leading policy, heralding an end to lockdown, confusing the message!”

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Her comments come after various newspapers published reports speculating what measures, if any, would be first to be relaxed.

The Sun reported how sunbathing, picnics and driving to rural areas would be allowed as part of the government's first stage of easing measures.

The Daily Mail reported last week that the government was considering allowing “social bubbles” - where individuals would be permitted to socialise with a close group of 10 family members and friends.

And the Financial Times reported how “unlimited exercise” could be allowed as restrictions were eased.

All reports have neither been confirmed or dismissed by government.

People wearing protective face masks wait in line for a supermarket in Brixton, South London, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
People wearing protective face masks wait in line for a supermarket in Brixton, South London, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

However, in response, the Welsh government said speculation on how lockdown measures may be lifted in England risks sending “mixed messages” to people in other parts of the UK including Wales.

A spokesperson said: “It is crucially important that the people of Wales are informed clearly and accurately about what, if any, changes are made to the current stay-at-home restrictions.”

“Some of the reporting in today’s newspapers is confusing and risks sending mixed messages to people across the UK.”

At Thursday’s Downing Street press conference, Dominic Raab stressed he would “not jump the gun” by hinting at any relaxation of stay-at home measures - despite various reports speculating what measures could be changed.

When questioned by the BBC’s Laura Kuennsberg, the first secretary confirmed current restrictions have been extended and will remain in place over the bank holiday weekend, saying: “There is no change today in the guidance or in the rules.”

Boris Johnson also said he will act with “maximum caution” in easing the coronavirus lockdown amid signs of tensions with the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London.
Boris Johnson is exercising "maximum caution" during his review of social distancing measures. (PA)

The PM’s official spokesman said the prime minister told his cabinet on Thursday that nothing would be done which risked a second peak in the outbreak, while also warning he would not hesitate to tighten the rules again if required.

The spokesman said: “The PM said that in considering whether there could be any easement in the existing guidelines that we are not going to do anything that risks a second peak.

“We will advance with maximum caution in order to protect the NHS and save lives. We will be guided at every step by the science and the data and we will closely track the impact of any easing of the social distancing measures and will not hesitate to tighten the rules if required.”

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