The United Kingdom will be on lockdown with heavy penalties to be enforced for those breaking the law, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday.
“From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction – you must stay at home,” Johnson said in a statement at 8.30pm.
“If you don’t follow the rules the police will have the powers to enforce fines.”
Shopping, one form of exercise a day, trips for any medical needs and travelling to and from work but only where necessary are the only permitted reasons to leave your house, PM Johnson added.
The measures come after a weekend where parks were full, and even despite pleas to stay at home on Monday there were many pictures in circulation of packed tubes in London.
The number of deaths from coronavirus in the UK earlier reached 335 while in Spain the death toll rose above 2,000.
In Italy numbers dipped for the second consecutive day but the outbreak has already claimed more than 6,000 victims.
— Boris Johnson #StayHomeSaveLives (@BorisJohnson) March 23, 2020
The strictest measures ever seen in the UK are to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, stop the NHS being overloaded and to protect life.
The Government will immediately close all shops selling non-essential goods, including clothing and electronic stores.
Other premises including libraries, playgrounds, and outdoor gyms and places of worship are also to be closed.
All social events will also be stopped including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies. The only exception to this is funerals.
Parks will remain open for exercise but any gatherings will be dispersed.
The restrictions will be under constant review and the government will look at the situation again in three weeks, and relax them if the evidence shows they can.
“I urge you at this moment of national emergency, to stay at home, protect our NHS and save lives. Thank you,” Johnson added.
Members of the public have reacted with a mixture of praise and concern.
In his speech, the PM said: “You must stay at home, because the critical thing we must do to stop the disease spreading between households.
“That’s why people will only be allowed to leave their home for the following very limited purposes.”
Online, the public has reacted with a mixture of relief and shock, with some questioning the timing of this statement.
Still don’t understand why @BorisJohnson didn’t do this 2-3 weeks ago
— Mujtaba Rahman (@Mij_Europe) March 23, 2020
Boris warned us and people didn’t listen, fair play to him. Handling the whole thing very well. It’s simple instructions people don’t comply with so there is no other option. LOCKDOWN #lockdownuk #StayAtHomeSaveLives
— Dan Reynolds (@danjreno99) March 23, 2020
Channel Four News’ Krishnan Guru-Murthy Tweeted: “Unprecedented and undeniably frightening. But there is still a lot of responsibility on us all to judge what the ‘basic necessities’ are that we need to shop for, what ‘absolutely necessary’ work travel is, our medical and exercise needs.”
Others were more cynical, with one council worker saying: “The narrative they are trying to create is ‘You couldn’t do what you were told to do so when it gets really bad it’s all your fault.’
“It’s all about managing the blame now, and the more of it they can shift, the more mitigation they can seek when the inquiry is finally held.”
A lot of confusion about what PM’s statement means for self-employed. Many can’t work from home so possibly could be allowed to travel to work under PM’s restrictions. But then they will be mixing in gatherings & that’s in conflict with the rest of policy. Needs clarifying.
— Andy Burnham (@AndyBurnhamGM) March 23, 2020
So far, over 6,500 people have tested positive for the virus in the UK.
UPDATE on coronavirus (#COVID19) testing in the UK:
As of 9am on 23 March, a total of 83,945 have been tested:
As of 1pm, 335 patients who tested positive for coronavirus have sadly died.
The digital dashboard will be updated later today. pic.twitter.com/NwiiPlZzKZ
— Department of Health and Social Care (@DHSCgovuk) March 23, 2020
The lockdown has come as the rate of infections has started to rise rapidly, reflecting previous trends already seen in Italy.
The Home Secretary Priti Patel has announced her solidarity with the police officers who will be responsible for enforcing the lockdown.
I know that the coming weeks will be testing for our frontline police officers. I will do everything I can to ensure that they have the resources they need to keep themselves and the public safe.
Their selflessness, compassion and commitment inspires us all every single day.
— Priti Patel #StayHomeSaveLives (@patel4witham) March 23, 2020