Britain wakes up to coronavirus lockdown, confusion continues

People jog in Battersea Park, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in London, Britain, March 24, 2020. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

Britain awoke to a virtual lockdown on Tuesday after Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered people to stay at home, shops to close and an end to all social gatherings to halt the spread of coronavirus. The unprecedented peacetime restrictions, which will last for at least three weeks, were brought in to prevent the state-run National Health Service (NHS) from being overwhelmed as the number of deaths in Britain rose to 335. [nL8N2BG8XV]

However, social media images showed London Underground trains were still packed with commuters and one large retail chain suggested it wanted to stay open.There were complaints that the advice was confusing or did not go far enough. “It is absolutely critical for making sure our NHS is in the strongest position possible to restrict the spread,” Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove told BBC TV.

“That means restricting social contact and following the advice the government has put forward. People must stay at home to protect themselves, to protect the NHS and to save lives.” The curbs on movement, under which people should only leave their homes for very limited reasons such as going to supermarkets or once a day for exercise, were announced in a national address by Johnson late on Monday.

He had resisted bringing in lockdowns which other European countries have introduced, but earlier advice for Britons to avoid gatherings was being widely ignored with people flocking to parks and beauty spots. All but essential shops must close immediately and people should no longer meet family or friends. Police will break up gatherings of more than two people and social events such as weddings, although not funerals, will be stopped.

Gove said stronger measures than 30-pound ($35) fines for people who flouted the new restrictions could be introduced.

Source: Reuters