Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered his fellow citizens to stay home and only travel outside when necessary, making the United Kingdom the latest country to embrace lockdown efforts to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
According to the BBC, Johnson limited all public gatherings in Britain to just two people while advising residents to leave their homes once a day for exercise and to travel only when “absolutely necessary,” to get groceries or needed medication. All non-essential businesses (bars, in-dining restaurants, etc.) have been closed until further notice.
Should people ignore these orders, police have been given the power to disperse gatherings and issue fines. In three weeks time, the government will consider a relaxation on rules in effect. Johnson made the announcement after a weekend where people were seen crowding the beaches, parks, markets, and other areas of Britain.
“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,” Boris Johnson said.
Though Health Secretary Matt Hancock said employers should see to it that employees can work from home, he ultimately stated, “I want to be absolutely clear, when people absolutely can not work from home they can still go to work – indeed it’s important that they do to keep the country running.”
Here are the new guidelines, as outlined by the BBC:
- Shopping for basic necessities such as food and medicine. Shopping trips should be as infrequent as possible
- One form of exercise a day such as a run, walk or cycle. This should be done alone or only with people you live with
- Any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person. This includes moving children under the age of 18 between their parents’ homes, where applicable. Key workers or those with children identified as vulnerable can continue to take their children to school
- Travelling to and from work, but only where work absolutely cannot be done from home
- Even when following the above guidance, people should minimise the amount of time spent out of their homes and should keep two metres (6ft) away from people they do not live with.
Boris Johnson has previously said the pandemic could be the “worst public health crisis for a generation,” warning that citizens could lose loved ones as a result.
“This is the worst public crisis for a generation, some people compare it to seasonal flu, alas that is not right,” Johnson told reporters at an emergency COBRA meeting of top Cabinet officials. “Owing to the lack of immunity, this disease is more dangerous, and it’s going to spread further.”
“I must level with the British public, many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time,” he added.
Last week, the royal family also announced that Queen Elizabeth would be moving up her planned Easter holiday a full week so that she could leave Buckingham Palace for Windsor Castle. Though the queen canceled large events, she will still be granting audience to specific people. Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, is expected to take over many of the Queen’s public duties in her absence as Prince Charles is also in the most vulnerable age bracket for the disease.
“As a sensible precaution and for practical reasons in the current circumstances, a number of changes are being made to The Queen’s diary,” the royal family announced on its website last Tuesday. “Audiences due to take place this week at Buckingham Palace will go ahead as planned. These include receiving the Prime Minister, the Commanding Officer of HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH and the Bishop of Hereford. Future Audiences will be reviewed on an ongoing basis, in line with the appropriate advice.”