Different messaging from UK and Scottish governments' caused Covid 'confusion', report suggests

Different messaging from the UK and Scottish governments' confused the public, a report into the handling of the pandemic has suggested.

The study, from the cross-party Science and Technology Committee and the Health and Social Care Committee, said the UK’s preparation for a pandemic was far too focused on flu, while ministers waited too long to push through lockdown measures in early 2020.

Focusing on the response south of the border, the report pointed to divergences from May 10 when UK ministers “announced that society would begin to re-open in England through a staged serious of lockdown easing measures”.

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It explained: “From this point, there were divergent approaches to messaging across the four nations of the UK.

Differing messages north and south of the border may have caused confusion

“To reflect the gradual lifting of strict lockdown measures in England, the government changed its slogan from “stay home, protect the NHS, save lives” to “stay alert, control the virus and save lives”.

“In contrast, during a press conference on the same day, the First Minister of Scotland emphasised that ‘we remain in lockdown for now and my ask of you remains to stay at home’

“Written evidence to our inquiry suggested that the loss of consistency across the four nations led to confusion, with ‘messages from numerous national bodies that, at times, appeared to contradict each other’.

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“We heard that at this stage, these contradicting messages began to cause confusion.”

The study then pointed to evidence submitted by Professor Devi Sridhar, a Scottish Government public health adviser when speaking to the Health and Social Care Committee in July 2020.

She said: “One point where you can see that England and Scotland diverged was when England changed in May to ‘stay alert’.

“Many people did not fully understand what that meant. In Scotland, the message was very clear: ‘stay at home’.

"When we started to see divergence in infection rates and death rates, it was around that time.”

The study also claims the three-tier approach to local lockdown restrictions in England saw confusion grow.

It added: “It was therefore unsurprising that this more differentiated messaging strategy meant that levels of public understanding and compliance began to deteriorate

"Written evidence suggested that the inconsistency in government messaging after the first wave of the pandemic was also damaging to public trust in official information.”

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