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Boris Johnson says 'common sense' will help beat coronavirus

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By Orlando Crowcroft with AP
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People enjoy the warm weather at Primrose Hill, as Britain faces its seventh week of lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak, in London, Saturday, May 9, 2020.
People enjoy the warm weather at Primrose Hill, as Britain faces its seventh week of lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak, in London, Saturday, May 9, 2020.   -   Copyright  Alberto Pezzali/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that Britons should wear face coverings in areas where social distancing was not possible in an update to MPs in the House of Commons on Monday.

Johnson reiterated many of the points he had made in a speech on Sunday night which was roundly criticised for being unclear, including that limits on exercise were to be lifted and that Britons could travel to beauty spots and beaches as long as they respected social distancing measures.

He said that anyone who cannot work from home should be encouraged to go to work, as long as social distancing measures could be implemented.

Johnson also confirmed that arrivals to the UK would be expected to self-isolate for 14 days.

Clarifying his point on face masks, Johnson said that he was not calling for people to wear "medical face masks, which must be reserved for people who need them," he said.

Speaking generally about the coronavirus epidemic, which has killed over 30,000 people over the past two months, he said: "We have begun our descent from the peak of the epidemic."

He said that "British common sense" would enable Britain to beat the coronavirus, as citizens opted to obey the rules and the police continued to enforce them.

Labour leader Keir Starmer criticised Johnson for his statement on Sunday night, which he said had caused confusion. He asked for clarity about when construction and manufacturing workers should be returning to work and whether safety measures had been taken to protect them.

Ian Blackford, the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) in Westminster, said: "mixed messages costs lives" and asked Johnson five questions, including why the replacement of the government's "Stay at Home" message with "Stay Alert" was not expressed to the Scottish government.

Johnson replied that the advice on Stay Alert was valid, as was the previous advice to Stay at Home.

Earlier, Johnson's statement about the UK's COVID-19 lockdown on Sunday was criticised by the head of the largest police officers' union, the Police Federation, arguing that officers needed "crystal clear guidance" rather than "loose rules".

'Mixed messages'

Police Federation in England and Wales (PFEW) Chief John Apter argued that the latest advice from the government will make it difficult for police officers to enforce the new rules.

"Policing this crisis has been tough, a lack of clarity and mixed messages has made that even harder," Apter said.

"If we fail to get clear and unambiguous guidance policing this crisis will become almost impossible."

His advice to workers on construction and manufacturing, who are unable to work from home, was chief among concerns.

Trade unions, in particular, are concerned that the guidance may put undue pressure on workers to try to return to work even at the risk of their health.

This is especially true for those workers with children, given that there was no firm decision from the government on when children would go back to school.

But it wasn't just Johnson's advice on working from home that has led to confusion.

He also told Britons that the one-hour restriction on exercising outdoors was being lifted, and people could now spend "unlimited amounts" of time outdoors.

They would also be allowed to drive to public beauty spots, including beaches, and play golf and tennis, and meet a friend - but not more than one - in a park as long as they sit two metres apart.

At the same time, fines for breaking social distancing rules were to be increased.

'Vague and imprecise'

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she didn’t know what the new advice meant and has asked the UK government not to promote a “vague and imprecise” message in Scotland.

Johnson's speech has come under fire on social media from comedians including Little Britain star Matt Lucas, who parodied the prime minister in a video.