Coronavirus: No gatherings of more than two people in new crackdown, says Boris Johnson

You can read Boris Johnson’s full speech at the bottom of this article.

Boris Johnson has announced an Italy-style lockdown on the UK to fight the coronavirus outbreak with gatherings of more than two people banned.

Police will enforce the new restrictions, including by issuing fines and dispersing gatherings.

Almost all shops are required to shut and draconian measures on when people can leave have been implemented.

The prime minister, who had appeared reluctant to introduce the measures, announced them in a speech on Monday evening.

“We will beat the coronavirus and we will beat it together,” Johnson said, adding that the measures are vital to protect the NHS’s capacity to deal with sick people in hospital.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives his daily COVID 19 coronavirus press briefing to announce new measures to limit the spread of the virus, at Downing Street in London Sunday March 22, 2020. For some people the COVID-19 coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, but for some it can cause severe illness including pneumonia. (Ian Vogler / Pool via AP)
Boris Johnson has announced new measures to fight the coronavirus outbreak. (Pool via AP)

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The measures are set to last three weeks initially.

The public has been told they should only leave to go for exercise, shopping for necessities, medical reasons, and travelling to and from work if needed.

Weddings and baptisms should not go ahead, but funerals can still take place. Places of worship must shut, the PM said.

No more than two people who are not part of the same household will be allowed to meet, Johnson said.

The move towards a lockdown like those seen in Italy, Spain and France comes after it became clear many people were not listening to government advice.

Pubs continued to be packed after Johnson said not to go to them, scenes of revellers enjoying a final night out were broadcast on Friday after they were told to close, and parks were filled over the weekend as people tried to get outdoors.

From Monday night, only supermarkets, convenience stores and pharmacies can be open and people will only be able to leave the house once a day to exercise and once to go to the shop.

The measures have been introduced after 335 patients who tested positive for coronavirus died.

The number of confirmed coronavirus in the UK rose by almost 1,000 to 6,650 in Monday’s report from the Department of Health. The rise of 967 is the biggest leap in cases yet.

Globally, there are more than 370,000 confirmed cases and more than 16,000 deaths. 6,000 of those are from Italy, according to Johns Hopkins University, the worst-hit country from the coronavirus, which continues to keep its population under lockdown.

Johnson had previously made it clear he was prepared to introduce stricter measures.

Screen grab of Health Secretary Matt Hancock introducing the Coronavirus Bill in the House of Commons for its second reading .
Matt Hancock criticised people who had disregarded government advice. (PA Images)

The health secretary, Matt Hancock, previouslycriticised those who had ignored the government advice.

“We will act if we need to,” he told the BBC.

“As health secretary, it is my job to protect life and the way that we protect life from a virus like this is to stop its spread and the way that you stop its spread is by people not interacting with others.”

Here is Johnson’s statement, broadcast on Monday night, in full:
Good evening,
The coronavirus is the biggest threat this country has faced for decades – and this country is not alone.
All over the world we are seeing the devastating impact of this invisible killer.
And so tonight I want to update you on the latest steps we are taking to fight the disease and what you can do to help.
And I want to begin by reminding you why the UK has been taking the approach that we have.
Without a huge national effort to halt the growth of this virus, there will come a moment when no health service in the world could possibly cope; because there won’t be enough ventilators, enough intensive care beds, enough doctors and nurses.
And as we have seen elsewhere, in other countries that also have fantastic health care systems, that is the moment of real danger.
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.
So it’s vital to slow the spread of the disease.
Because that is the way we reduce the number of people needing hospital treatment at any one time, so we can protect the NHS’s ability to cope – and save more lives.
And that’s why we have been asking people to stay at home during this pandemic.
And though huge numbers are complying – and I thank you all – 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.
Because the critical thing we must do is stop the disease spreading between households.
That is why people will only be allowed to leave their home for the following very limited purposes:
– shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible
– one form of exercise a day – for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household;
– any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person; and
– travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home.
That’s all – these are the only reasons you should leave your home.
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 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.
If you don’t follow the rules the police will have the powers to enforce them, including through fines and dispersing gatherings.
To ensure compliance with the Government’s instruction to stay at home, we will immediately:
– close all shops selling non-essential goods, including clothing and electronic stores and other premises including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship;
– we will stop all gatherings of more than two people in public – excluding people you live with;
– and we’ll stop all social events , including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies, but excluding funerals.
Parks will remain open for exercise but gatherings will be dispersed.
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.
And I can assure you that we will keep these restrictions under constant review. We will look again in three weeks, and relax them if the evidence shows we are able to.
But at present there are just no easy options. The way ahead is hard, and it is still true that many lives will sadly be lost.
And yet it is also true that there is a clear way through.
Day by day we are strengthening our amazing NHS with 7,500 former clinicians now coming back to the service.
With the time you buy – by simply staying at home – we are increasing our stocks of equipment.
We are accelerating our search for treatments.
We are pioneering work on a vaccine.
And we are buying millions of testing kits that will enable us to turn the tide on this invisible killer.
I want to thank everyone who is working flat out to beat the virus.
Everyone from the supermarket staff to the transport workers to the carers to the nurses and doctors on the frontline.
But in this fight we can be in no doubt that each and every one of us is directly enlisted.
Each and every one of us is now obliged to join together, to halt the spread of this disease, to protect our NHS and to save many many thousands of lives.
And I know that as they have in the past so many times, the people of this country will rise to that challenge.
And we will come through it stronger than ever.
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.