The UK has been put on lockdown for at least three weeks to combat the coronavirus outbreak, with police being given the power to fine people who break new emergency social rules.
In an unprecedented TV address to the nation, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said people must remain in their homes and can only leave in limited circumstances: to shop for food, exercise once a day, travel to work, and pick up medicine or care for a vulnerable person.
Johnson said all shops selling non-essential items will be forced to close, including clothing and electronic stores, while gatherings of more than two people will be dispersed by police. He added that social events such as weddings and baptisms will be banned, meaning people can only gather in large groups for funerals.
“You should not be meeting friends. If your friends ask you to meet, you should say ‘No,'” Johnson added. “You should not be meeting family members who do not live in your home. You should not be going shopping except for essentials like food and medicine — and you should do this as little as you can. And use food delivery services where you can.”
The prime minister, who delivered his message straight down the barrel of a camera in a message broadcast on the BBC and elsewhere, concluded: “I urge you at this moment of national emergency to stay at home, protect our NHS and save lives. Thank you.”
There are 6,650 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the UK, while 335 people have died of the disease. The UK government’s measures are not as sweeping as some other countries, where people have needed to fill out paperwork to leave their houses and parks have been closed.