Boris Johnson announces total UK lockdown to tackle coronavirus

23 March 2020, 20:30

By Kate Buck

Boris Johnson has announced a UK lockdown to stop the spread of coronavirus.

The Prime Minister announced a series of strict measures that are designed to limit the spread of the disease, similar to those already in place in cities across Europe.

In a televised address to the nation from Downing Street, Mr Johnson said that Brits "must stay at home" and that the new rules will last for at least the next three weeks.

He also said police will be given powers to enforce a raft of new measures, including through fines and dispersing crowds.

People can only leave their homes for the following reasons:

*Shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible

*One form of exercise a day - for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household

*Any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person

*Travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home.

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The following measures will be enforced

*All shops selling non-essential goods,​ including clothing and electronic stores will be closed

*Libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship will be closed

*Gatherings of more than two people in public banned – excluding people you live with

*All social events​, including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies banned, but funerals are allowed

Mr Johnson made the announcement in a televised address to the country
Mr Johnson made the announcement in a televised address to the country. Picture: Downing Street

London, with a population of close to 9 million people, has seen 148 people die from the disease so far. The capital is at the epicentre of the outbreak, but Mr Johnson had refused to lock down the capital despite growing concerns.

Over the weekend, photos and videos showed crowds of people leave their homes to enjoy the good weather and visit parks and markets - despite Mr Johnson's pleas with for people to socially distance themselves from others.

Mr Johnson said: "I know the damage that this disruption is doing and will do to people’s lives, to their businesses and to their jobs."

He added that the measures will be relaxed "if the evidence shows we are able to."

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"But at present there are just no easy options. The way ahead is hard, and it is still true that many lives will sadly be lost."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn applauded Mr Johnson's new measures, saying the PM was"right to call for people to stay at home, save our NHS, and save lives."

And London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: "These rules are not optional. They are to stop people dying."

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said new coronavirus restrictions "amount to a lockdown", and said the new measures are "not done lightly".

"I am not going to sugercoat it in any way," she said. "Coronavirus is the biggest challenge of our lifetime."

"Stay at home," she said. "That is the message I gave yesterday and I am reinforcing that message now."

Earlier this week, she pleaded with businesses to close their doors to stop the risk of more being spread.

She said: "It has been clear to me that there are still too many people across our country who are being expected to, or expecting to, go to work as normal and this presents a serious and unnecessary risk of spreading the virus.

"I want to reiterate that if you run a business and if the nature of your business makes it difficult for you or your workers to work from home or to practice safe social distancing then you should close."

There are growing fears that Britain is on a similar trajectory to Italy - which is now the epicentre of the global outbreak - where the death toll passed 5,000 over the weekend.

The UK death toll from the virus currently stands at 335, including an 18-year-old who had an underlying health condition.

There are 6,650 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, although it is feared the true number could stretch into the tens of thousands.

Boris Johnson has been under increasing pressure to implement a lockdown
Boris Johnson has been under increasing pressure to implement a lockdown. Picture: PA

The Italian government was one of a number of European countries to announce new or extended restrictions - with Germany banning public gatherings of more than two people not from the same household.

France and Spain have also been on lockdown.

In the Chinese city of Wuhan, where Covid-19 originally broke out, residents are only just starting to be allowed out after being placed on lockdown in January.

Earlier,  Health Secretary Matt Hancock said ministers were prepared to take stricter measures to clamp down on the spread of the virus if necessary.

"These are unpleasant and very difficult times,” he said.

Asked whether the Cabinet would be considering a firmer lockdown when it meets on Monday, Mr Hancock said: "Nothing is off the table. Of course we are looking at what other European countries are doing."

Meanwhile, respiratory doctors and nurses at Belfast Trust launched a video on Twitter saying people should stay at home to save lives.