Alarmed at people continuing to gather in public spaces and not taking social distancing seriously enough, Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday placed the UK under strict curfew, allowing people to leave homes for only four specified reasons.
The police will have powers to enforce the curbs, he said, announcing steps similar to those taken by France and other European countries, where people have to fill forms and state purposes for which they intended to leave homes, or face fines.
Coronavirus-related deaths and cases in the UK continued to mount: 335 deaths and 6,650 cases as on Monday afternoon.
Johnson said in a special address to the nation: “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”, he said, imposing restrictions the likes of which the UK with a long history of liberty, freedom of movement and civil rights has never seen.
Referring to reports of people gathering in parks and other public places, Johnson said the parks will remain open for exercises but the police will have the powers to disburse crowds and impose fines.
Besides the closure of pubs, restaurants and theatres announced last week, he said authorities will also close shops selling non-essential goods, including clothing and electronic stores and other premises including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship.
Johnson said: “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 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”.