Coronavirus: Boris Johnson tells pubs, cafes, gyms and restaurants to close

20 March 2020, 17:12

By Megan White

Boris Johnson told cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants across the UK to close on Friday night "as soon as they reasonably could" and not to open on Saturday in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The Prime Minister told a press conference that the measure was necessary to "push down the curve" as the number of deaths in the UK rose to 167.

Mr Johnson said food outlets could continue to provide take-out services.

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He also said nightclubs, theatres, cinemas, gyms and leisure centres should close.

The PM said: "The speed of our eventual recovery depends entirely on our collective ability to get on top of the virus now and that means we have to take the next steps on scientific advice.

Read more: Government to help pay employees' wages amid pandemic

"And following our plan we are strengthening the measures announced on Monday.

"We need now to push down further on that curve of transmission between us.

"And so following agreement with all the ... devolved administrations, we are collectively telling cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants to close tonight as soon as they reasonably can and not to open tomorrow.

"Though, to be clear, they can continue to provide take out services.

Read more: Number of UK deaths jumps by 33 to 177 with almost 4,000 cases

"We're also telling nightclubs, theatres, cinemas, gyms and leisure centres to close on the same timescale."

Mr Johnson said: "It is hard to think of the businesses that will face difficulties as a result of the measures this country has had to take but that is why we are also simultaneously announcing quite an exceptional package of support.

"Not just for businesses, but for individual workers and our message to business is that 'we will stand behind you and we hope that you will stand behind your workers'."

Read more: What do the latest UK coronavirus announcements mean for you?

He added: "We all remember what happened in 2008 (during the financial crisis). This time, as we heal the economic damage that this is causing, we want to make sure that we put the people first."

The Prime Minister added: "I do accept that what we're doing is extraordinary - we're taking away the ancient inalienable right of freeborn people of the United Kingdom to go to the pub.

"And I can understand how people feel about that.

"But I say to people who do go against the advice that we're getting, the very clear advice that we're getting from our medical and scientific experts, you know you're not only putting your own life, the lives of your family, at risk - you're endangering the community.

"And you're making it more difficult for us to get on and protect the NHS and save lives.

"And if you comply, if people comply as I say, then we will not only save lives, thousands of lives, but we'll come out of this thing all the faster."

The PM said the Government would be continually assessing the situation around pubs and cafes and other requested closures "to see if we can relax any of these measures".

He added: "You may be tempted to go out tonight and I say to you please don't, you may think that you are invincible - but there is no guarantee that you will get it.

"But you can still be a carrier of the disease and pass it on."

He added: "We want you as far as possible to stay at home."

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said the measures shutting pubs and restaurants would be in place for 14 days "and then reviewed to consider their effectiveness".

"We will work with businesses to find new ways of trading - takeaway & delivery will continue due to emergency changes to the law & these options will be available to all businesses," he said.

Mr Jenrick said betting shops, casinos, cinemas, museums, galleries and concert halls would be among the organisations facing closure.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he agreed with the decision to shut pubs, restaurants and other public spaces.

"I want to make a direct appeal to everyone: Act immediately on the expert advice," he tweeted.

"If you ignore this, people will die as a result."

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth tweeted: "We welcome Boris Johnson's decision to shut pubs, restaurants & other venues.

"We have been increasingly concerned that the social distancing measures needed were not being followed which is why we called for this earlier. We all have to adjust our behaviour to defeat this virus."

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