BORIS Johnson tonight drastically locked down Britain in the most desperate bid yet to halt the coronavirus spread.
In a massive ramping of government restrictions, the PM ordered the whole country to stay at home unless it’s for work, as he declared the fight “a national emergency” – and threatened the nation with fines if they did not obey.
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The draconian measures which will change every aspect of Brits' lives included:
- All gatherings of more than two people in public were forbidden – meaning a ban on all social events, including weddings and baptisms
- Tens of thousands of non-essential shops were ordered to close
- Communal play and exercise areas inside parks will also be shut down, but not parks themselves
- Places of worship such as churches and mosques must also shut, except to host for funerals
And travel on roads, trains and buses was also banned, unless it’s essential to get to work.
Anyone breaking the rules will be fined at least £30 – and up to £1,000 if they fail to self-isolate.
The PM said he had been forced to reluctantly initiate the crackdown as far too few Brits had complied with the government’s social distancing edicts so far.
Speaking to the nation from No10, Boris branded coronavirus as “the biggest threat this country has faced for decades”.
He insisted: “Without a huge national effort to halt the growth of this virus, there will come a moment when no health service in the world could possibly cope; because there won’t be enough ventilators, enough intensive care beds, enough doctors and nurses.
“So it’s vital to slow the spread of the disease.
“From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction – you must stay at home. Because the critical thing we must do is stop the disease spreading between households.”
All Brits will only be allowed to leave home from now onwards for four reasons:
- Travel to work
- Shopping for basic necessities, but as infrequently as possible
- Taking one form of exercise a day, alone or with members of your household, such as walking, running or cycling
- Going to a medical appointment or providing care to a vulnerable person.
There will be no road or rail closures, to allow key workers to get to and from work.
And Brits are still allowed to go to work if they cannot work at home, but only if they can stay two metres apart from each other during it.
That means construction sites won’t yet have to close, and delivery services can continue.
Shops that can stay open are supermarkets, pharmacies, vets, pet shops, hardware stores, retail shops in hospitals, newsagents, petrol stations, banks, post offices, laundrettes and undertakers.
All others must close, including clothes shops and electronics stores.
The PM’s order will last for an initial three weeks, when it will be reviewed to see whether the contagion rate is down.
Stoney-faced Boris added: “No Prime Minister wants to enact measures like this.
“I know the damage that this disruption is doing and will do to people’s lives, to their businesses and to their jobs.
“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.”
But he also insisted the NHS is building up strength and resources to fight the big, and “there is a clear way through”.
The PM added: “In this fight we can be in no doubt that each and every one of us is directly enlisted.
“Each and every one of us is now obliged to join together.
“I know that as they have in the past so many times.
“The people of this country will rise to that challenge.
And we will come through it stronger than ever.
“We will beat the coronavirus and we will beat it together.
“And therefore I urge you at this moment of national emergency to stay at home, protect our NHS and save lives.”
No10 aides said it is highly likely to be extended into May and possibly June unless virus fatalities substantially fall.
Data about the public’s movements over the weekend – trawled over by experts today – revealed far too few were complying with the PM’s demands for everyone to stay two metres apart.
Government scientists say a minimum of 75 per cent of the population must comply of the virus’s contagion will continue to spiral.
But The Sun has learned that the take up rate was well below the three quarters mark.
Instead, the PM was told that parks and playgrounds’ usage was up by a staggering 200% because of the sunny weather.
The moves bring London closer into line with most other major Western cities such as Rome, Paris, Madrid and New York – some of which have been in lockdown for two weeks.
The PM’s new lockdown is the second major shift in thinking by No10 in a week.
Only last Thursday, Downing Street had insisted there was “zero prospect” of a lockdown in London.
The lockdown is also a victory for Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who has been privately urging for tougher measures against some rival No10 doves for some days.
The tough decisions were taken at a meeting of the government’s COBRA emergency committee at 5pm today, chaired by the PM.
Pressure had been mounting on him all day to take tougher action after scenes through out the weekend of Brits ignoring him to have fun in the sun.
Tubes and trains were also packed again during rush hour on Monday morning.
There was also anger that too so many government edicts were just voluntary.
No10 had refused to close camping and mobile caravan sites, despite urging Brits to no longer go to them on Sunday night.
During a charged Commons debate today former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told MPs that it “may be too late to avoid Italy”.
But he added: “To have any chance we need to move to lockdown rules now that ban non-essential travel.
“It’s time to stop asking people to do social distancing – we much enforce it.
“Not this week, not tomorrow, but today.”
Labour deputy leadership candidate and a senior A&E doctor Rosena Allin-Khan, the said Mr Johnson’s “relaxed” approach to the disease and “mixed messaging” will cost lives.
Boris Johnson's address to the nation in full
The coronavirus is the biggest threat this country has faced for decades – and this country is not alone.
All over the world we are seeing the devastating impact of this invisible killer
And so tonight I want to update you on the latest steps we are taking to fight the disease and what you can do to help.
And I want to begin by reminding you why the UK has been taking the approach that we have.
Without a huge national effort to halt the growth of this virus, there will come a moment when no health service in the world could possibly cope; because there won’t be enough ventilators, enough intensive care beds, enough doctors and nurses.
And as we have seen elsewhere, in other countries that also have fantastic health care systems, that is the moment of real danger.
To put it simply, if too many people become seriously unwell at one time, the NHS will be unable to handle it – meaning more people are likely to die, not just from Coronavirus but from other illnesses as well.
So it’s vital to slow the spread of the disease.
Because that is the way we reduce the number of people needing hospital treatment at any one time, so we can protect the NHS’s ability to cope – and save more lives.
And that’s why we have been asking people to stay at home during this pandemic.
And though huge numbers are complying – and I thank you all – the time has now come for us all to do more.
From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction – you must stay at home.
Because the critical thing we must do is stop the disease spreading between households.
That is why people will only be allowed to leave their home for the following very limited purposes:
- 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; and
- travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home.
That’s all – these are the only reasons you should leave your home.
You should not be meeting friends. If your friends ask you to meet, you should say No.
You should not be meeting family members who do not live in your home.
You should not be going shopping except for essentials like food and medicine — and you should do this as little as you can. And use food delivery services where you can.
If you don’t follow the rules the police will have the powers to enforce them, including through fines and dispersing gatherings.
To ensure compliance with the Government’s instruction to stay at home, we will immediately:
- close all shops selling non-essential goods, including clothing and electronic stores and other premises including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship;
- we will stop all gatherings of more than two people in public – excluding people you live with;
- and we’ll stop all social events, including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies, but excluding funerals.
Parks will remain open for exercise but gatherings will be dispersed.
No Prime Minister wants to enact measures like this.
I know the damage that this disruption is doing and will do to people’s lives, to their businesses and to their jobs.
And that’s why we have produced a huge and unprecedented programme of support both for workers and for business.
And I can assure you that we will keep these restrictions under constant review. We will look again in three weeks, and relax them if the evidence shows we are able to.
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.
And yet it is also true that there is a clear way through.
Day by day we are strengthening our amazing NHS with 7500 former clinicians now coming back to the service.
With the time you buy – by simply staying at home – we are increasing our stocks of equipment.
We are accelerating our search for treatments.
We are pioneering work on a vaccine.
And we are buying millions of testing kits that will enable us to turn the tide on this invisible killer.
I want to thank everyone who is working flat out to beat the virus.
Everyone from the supermarket staff to the transport workers to the carers to the nurses and doctors on the frontline.
But in this fight we can be in no doubt that each and every one of us is directly enlisted.
Each and every one of us is now obliged to join together.
To halt the spread of this disease.
To protect our NHS and to save many many thousands of lives.
And I know that as they have in the past so many times.
The people of this country will rise to that challenge.
And we will come through it stronger than ever.
We will beat the coronavirus and we will beat it together.
And therefore I urge you at this moment of national emergency to stay at home, protect our NHS and save lives.
The dramatic announcement came it was revealed that 46 more people had been killed by the virus in the past 24 hours, taking the death toll over 300 for the first time to 303.
Lambasting the ‘covidiots’ who were still ignoring the government advice, Mr Hancock said earlier: "It’s very selfish. If people go within two metres of others they don’t live with they are helping spread the virus. It costs lives".
Earlier Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also told shops north of the border to “close now” if they aren’t providing essential items.
No10 had braced Britain for the coronavirus death toll to climb for some days, and probably quite steeply.
The PM’s official spokesman said: “It will take some days for the measures we announced to have some impact”.
New analysis from British scientists also proved tougher measures were urgently needed.
The group from University College London, the University of Cambridge and Health Data Research UK found No10’s previous approach will lead to between 35,000 and 70,000 “excess deaths” from Covid-19.
The government pumped an extra £20million into urgent coronavirus research projects, including two vaccination trials.
The funding also helps to pay for scientists probing how existing treatments could be repurposed to treat coronavirus and how those at the greatest risk from it could be identified.
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