UK PM Boris Johnson's 'stay alert' coronavirus campaign sparks countless memes

The U.K. government's new slogan "Stay Alert, Control the Virus, Save Lives" is seen during Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson's televised message to the nation on May 10, 2020.
George Wood | Getty Images

The U.K. government's new "stay alert" coronavirus safety campaign is being mocked on social media.

When Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the new advice on Sunday, which replaced "stay at home," it was met with widespread confusion. Devolved nations Scotland and Wales rejected it and communication experts were baffled by its meaning.

The full message of the new campaign reads: "Stay alert, control the virus, save lives," replacing "Stay home, protect the NHS (the National Health Service), save lives."

Johnson defended the change at a press briefing on Monday, stating: "For those who think that the stay alert is not the right message, I think it is absolutely the right message for our country now."

Despite this, the shift in language has sparked parodies across Twitter.

The account Scarfolk Council, linked to a fictional English town, posted: "Very practical, life-saving advice from the government. Sneak up, shout at the virus, then run."

Another user wrote: "This government is doing the bare minimum it can get away with so that at the inevitable public enquiry, they can shrug and say 'we did run a comms campaign, not our fault if nobody followed the advice'," with an image that stated: "Be vague, cover our backs, shirk responsibility."

Comedian Olaf Falafel posted a "slogan generator," on Twitter, writing: "It appears some of you idiots can't follow a simple instruction so here's the new and much clearer government Covid slogan generator."

NHS worker Julia Prague urged the U.K. public to listen to Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, highlighting that Scotland's advice was still to "stay at home," despite Johnson's change of message.

Johnson recorded a message about easing the U.K.'s lockdown, broadcast Sunday night, in which he stated that people who can't work from home — such as those in construction or manufacturing — were encouraged to go to work. However, he also encouraged people to social distance and avoid public transport.

British comedian Matt Lucas recorded a video parody of Johnson's speech, in which he stated: "So we are saying: don't go to work, go to work, don't take public transport, go to work, don't go to work, stay indoors, if you can work from home go to work, go outside, don't go outside, and then we will, or won't, something or other."

Actress Meggie Foster posted a parody of the speech on TikTok, featuring a copy of George Orwell's book "1984" and the words of former British Prime Minister Theresa May: "Nothing has changed."

Meanwhile, another Twitter user mocked the Prime Minister's new, five-tier coronavirus alert system, also presented on Sunday.