BORIS Johnson is reportedly preparing to drop “stay at home” safety advice in England.

The Prime Minister is expected to relax restrictions as early as March 8 as he sets out a “roadmap” out of lockdown.

Any changes to Scotland’s restrictions or messaging will be decided by the Scottish Government.

The reports in England have prompted concern among some experts and members of the public.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson getting ready to ditch Stay at Home message 'in weeks'

Perhaps that's unsurprising, given several high-profile U-turns in the past 12 months.

Here, we take a look back at few of the instances in which the Prime Minister and his ministers have been forced to eat their words.

Dismissing lockdowns

On February 3 last year, just a few days after the first Covid-19 cases was confirmed in the UK, Johnson railed against any suggestion he would order a lockdown.

He claimed the UK would be “the supercharged champion of the right of the populations of the earth to buy and sell freely among each other”.

The National:

The Prime Minister added: "There is a risk that new diseases such as coronavirus will trigger a panic and a desire for market segregation that go beyond what is medically rational to the point of doing real and unnecessary economic damage.

"Then, at that moment, humanity needs some government somewhere that is willing at least to make the case powerfully for freedom of exchange."

That stance held for another six weeks. On March 16, Johnson announced the UK would be going into full lockdown in a week’s time.

Shaking hands

The Tory leader’s now infamous boast about shaking coronavirus patient’s hands is among his most high-profile blunders during the pandemic.

On March 3, the Independent Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours (SPI-B), a subcommittee of the Sage committee, warned people should stop shaking hands to slow the spread of coronavirus.

It said: "There was agreement that Government should advise against greetings such as shaking hands and hugging, given existing evidence about the importance of hand hygiene.

"Promoting a replacement greeting or encouraging others to politely decline a proffered hand-shake may have benefit."

The National:

But on the same day, Johnson said during a public broadcast: "I was at a hospital the other night where I think a few there were actually coronavirus patients. And I shook hands with everybody, you'll be pleased to know, and I continue to shake hands."

The Tory leader was later hospitalised with Covid-19 and required treatment in the intensive care unit.

Stay alert

Murmurings that the UK Government is poised to change its coronavirus message may seem familiar.

In May, Johnson changed the Stay at Home slogan to “Stay Alert” – prompting Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to announce they would stick with the original guidance.

The move was widely criticised, with Nicola Sturgeon saying she did not know what “Stay Alert” meant.

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She also revealed that the devolved nations were not told about the change before it was unveiled in the Sunday Telegraph.

The UK Government was forced to readopt its “stay at home” message when a new national lockdown was announced in England over the festive period.

Eat Out to Help Out

Westminster’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme was designed to boost the economy after the first UK-wide lockdown, and allowed pubs and restaurants to offer heavily discounted meals on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays in August.

The initiative was championed by Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

However, research published in October by the University of Warwick showed a sharp increase in infection clusters emerged a week after the scheme began.

The National:

The study suggested that between 8% and 17% of newly detected infection clusters could be linked to the scheme.

That same month, Johnson admitted that Eat Out to Help Out may have helped spread Covid-19, but insisted the scheme was necessary to protect jobs.

He told Andrew Marr: ”It unquestionably helped to protect many... [of the] two million jobs at least in the hospitality sector. It was very important to keep those jobs going.

“Now, if it, insofar as that scheme may have helped to spread the virus, then obviously we need to counteract that and we need to counteract that with the discipline and the measures that we're proposing."

Get back to work

As well as Eat Out to Help Out, August saw the launch of the Tory government’s get back to work drive.

Workers were urged to stop working from home if they could – despite suggestions in some case that they could be at risk of being sacked if they refused.

The plan was part of efforts to save struggling retailers in town and city centres.

But within a month, Downing Street ministers announced a U-turn.

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Michael Gove declared a “shift of emphasis”, also revealing the target for 80 per cent of civil servants to be in the office had been ditched.


In December, it was announced that the four UK nations had agreed that a limited amount of indoor mixing would be permitted over the festive period.

However, the identification of a new highly-transmissible variant left the plans in tatters and forced a U-turn.

It was announced on December 18 that just one day of indoor mixing would be allowed.

Johnson, however, hadn’t done himself any favours just two days before, when he defended his government’s decision to ease restrictions.

He declared it would be “frankly inhuman” to introduce tighter rules.

The National:

“I want to be clear we don’t want to, as I say, to ban Christmas, to cancel it,” the PM told a media conference. “And I think that would be frankly inhuman and against the instincts of many people in this country.”

The Tory leader told the Downing Street press conference after the rules had been loosened: “We, of course, bitterly regret the changes that are necessary but, alas, when the facts change, you have to change your approach.”

Positive confirmed cases in the UK hit an all-time high of 81,523 in a single day on December 29.