Coronavirus: PM announces strict new curbs on life in UK

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson

At Mile End Underground station in East London people seemed to be heeding the advice to stay home.

"You must stay at home", Johnson told the country in a televised address, which broadcast industry analysts said was watched by 27 million people, calling the situation a "national emergency".

Apart from essential workers who can not do their jobs from home, people will only be allowed to go out for a limited number of reasons including fetching daily necessities, exercising once per day and caring for the sick.

Only a few people arrived to take Underground trains and buses were mostly empty. On March 20, Johnson ordered all cinemas, theaters, bars, gyms, cafes, restaurants, pubs and clubs to shut down and renewed his appeal for people to stay at home and venture out only if essential.

People will now only be allowed to leave their home for the following reasons.

The unprecedented peacetime restrictions, which will last at least three weeks, are meant to stop the state-run National Health Service (NHS) being overwhelmed after the number of deaths from the coronavirus in Britain jumped from 54 to 335 on Monday. This is known as social distancing.

Julia Harris, a London nurse, said her morning train to work was full.

Parks will remain open for exercise purposes. "The way ahead is hard.many lives will sadly be lost".

- Travelling to and from work, but only if this is absolutely necessary and can not be done from home. Cabinet minister Michael Gove initially said children should not move between households, before clarifying that it was permitted.

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Johnson insists he has been following the scientific advice, but many commentators suggest his instinctive dislike of telling people what to do has played a part.

"We will stop all gatherings of more than two people in public - excluding people you live with", he said.

Britain had 8,077 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 422 deaths on Tuesday - 87 more deaths than a day earlier.

One south London supermarket was doing brisk trade from the minute it opened at 6:00 am (0600 GMT), although most shoppers were keeping apart.

As the United Kingdom death toll has reached 335, Johnson said the police now have the power to enforce these rules by dispersing crowds or potentially issuing fines.

There was also ambiguity regarding what powers police had to enforce the new guidance.

"It's like a war effort - it is a war against this virus and so the army have been incredibly helpful in getting those logistics so we can get the supplies to protect people on the front line", he told the BBC, saying the health service now had 12,000 ventilators, 7,000 more than at the start of the crisis. Unlike some other European countries, Britons do not carry ID cards, another factor complicating enforcement efforts.

"No prime minster wants to enact measures like this".

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