UK Coronavirus Lockdown: ‘If You Don’t Follow the Rules, the Police Will Have the Powers to Enforce Them’

The British government has ordered people to stay in their homes and only to leave in a very limited number of circumstances, as well as banning public gatherings of more than two people in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Addressing the nation on Monday evening after a three-hour meeting of the government COBRA emergency planning group, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that measures announced so far — which included ordering pubs, bars, and restaurants to close and advising the public to stay at home — were no longer enough to prevent coronavirus spreading through the country too quickly.

Explaining that slowing the development of the virus was the government’s key priority, as preventing too many new cases emerging on any given day would prevent the national health infrastructure from being overwhelmed, the prime minister told the United Kingdom: “The time has now come for us all to do more. From this evening, I must give the British people a very simple instruction: you must stay at home.”

In a far-reaching lockdown that brings Britain in line with the harshest regimes imposed on European nations in the depth of the coronavirus, the prime minister announced a national emergency that was to last for at least three weeks. British residents will not be allowed to leave their homes except in a very limited set of circumstances, and the right of assembly is being severely curtailed, with no more than two people who do not live together being permitted to meet together in public.

The acceptable reasons to leave the home were to shop for food — and even then as infrequently as possible — to exercise once a day, to go to hospital, or to travel to and from essential work.

Underlining that these points were no longer suggestions, the prime minister told the nation: “If you don’t follow the rules, the police will have the powers to enforce them, including fines and dispersing gatherings.”

Making clear that members of the public should stop seeing their friends, the prime minister went on: “You should not be meeting friends. If your friends ask you to meet, you should say no. You should not be meeting family members who don’t live in your home.”

How the police are expected to know when members of the public are outside without a good reason is unclear, but in Italy and other countries residents have had to fill out government forms to get permission to leave their homes and those found without paperwork in public can face harsh punishments. In the United Kingdom, The Daily Telegraph, a pro-Conservative paper with links to the government reports the fines are likely to be of £30 for congregating in groups of more than two people.

In addition to the restrictions on individuals, the government was also closing all non-essential businesses, being most except food and medicine retailers, and for all religious services to be cancelled except funerals.


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