European media have widely described the British prime minister’s “conditional plan” to reopen society as a “mixed message” driven by “extreme caution”.
Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote that “all clarity has been eliminated” after Boris Johnson presented his plan for easing the lockdown.
“Prime Minister Johnson has presented a ‘roadmap’ for exiting the coronavirus crisis – and confused the British. Discontent is also growing in the cabinet and in parliament: the government has not discussed the plan in advance,” the paper wrote.
Newspapers elsewhere wondered whether the British public had understood the message at all. “What on earth does it mean to be alert?” wrote Spanish El Confidencial, pointing out that it was the most common question on social media.
Italian newspapers observed that the UK had “once again” changed its strategy – with a “new slogan”.
Liberal La Repubblica wrote that the opposition and devolved governments were worried that “this change of tack will be the latest false move by the government that first downplayed the virus, suggested herd immunity only to then take it back… and is now putting forward an unclear, difficult-to-understand message.”
Commentaries across Europe have also noted the “extreme caution” in the latest UK government advice. “For a man who likes walking briskly, it is with small steps that Boris Johnson approaches the end of lockdown,” France’s Le Figaro newspaper wrote. “The health situation in the country and, undoubtedly, the challenge he went through, have incited the prime minister to caution.”
French business daily Les Echos referred to the virus reproduction rate on the other side of the Channel, writing “if Boris Johnson is showing such caution, it’s because he knows that his room for manoeuvre is extremely limited“.
Other newspapers in France and Italy pointed out that Johnson still enjoyed popularity despite his country having the worst mortality rate in Europe. “Trust in Johnson’s government will also depend on its ability to deploy an effective strategy for testing and tracing the virus. Johnson barely mentioned it on Sunday. And for a reason: it is not ready,” Le Monde wrote.
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In an article headlined “End of Johnson’s arrogance” a journalist from Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung warned that Johnson was yet to face the toughest challenges of the coronavirus crisis.
“Johnson is not over the hump. The harsh criticism of his exit schedule shows that the most difficult phase is still ahead of him – not least because, with new Labour leader Keir Starmer, he has a more capable opposition leader breathing down his neck than before,” Jochen Buchsteiner concluded.
As to what kind of holiday destinations await the British public over the summer, Le Monde offered a suggestion from a Sunday Times article from 10 May: “The British, big fans of sunny vacations in France Spain and Italy, will have to rediscover Blackpool… with its zoo, its pier and its fake Eiffel tower.”
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