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UK begins lockdown as government announce tough measures to stop the spread of COVID-19

Published on 24/03/20 at 10:35am
Photo by Chatham House

Last night, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced sweeping measures to bring Britain into a near total societal lockdown in order to fight the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

He outlined new guidance in a speech, in a response to members of the public ignoring previous government ‘advice’ to stay home unless it travelling outside was essential.

The new measures mean people are only allowed to leave their home to shop for basic necessities, go outside for exercise alone (or with the household) once a day, to care for children or the elderly or to travel to work but only if the job cannot be done from home.

People should also keep 6ft (2 metres) away from others they do not live with when they are outside the house. The government also announced an end to all social gatherings including baptisms, weddings with places of worship also closing. Funerals will still go ahead but only with immediate family members being able to attend. The police also have been given the power to enforce the rules by giving out fines and dispersing crowds.

Hotels, campsites, caravan parks, libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms have also been ordered to close while supermarkets, petrol stations, post offices, launderettes, bike shops, banks, hardware stores and pet shops are allowed to remain open.  Community centres can also remain open but only for hosing volunteers and homeless people and providing services like food banks.

These new measures would be reassessed after 3 weeks, but it is expected they could be in place for a lot longer.

Boris Johnson ended the speech by saying: “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.

“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.”

While these changes have largely been welcomed by officials and politicians, some questions remain, namely around how these rules will actually be enforced.

Conor Kavanagh

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