UK residents will be expected to follow new, tighter regulations around socialising for a minimum of three weeks after an announcement on Monday evening by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The announcement comes after ‘social distancing’ measures have already been encouraged in order to limit the continued spread of Covid-19, the novel Coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China late last year and first appeared in the UK in January.
There will now be a ban on public gatherings of more than two, with police and local authorities given powers to disperse crowds.
Additionally, residents are expected to leave their homes for essentials only: to shop for food or medicine, to attend medical appointments, to exercise, to work – if working from home is not possible – and to deliver supplies and care to members of society who are unable to leave their homes, such as those in self-isolation or those in the ‘vulnerable’ category.
The immediate closure of all shops selling non-essential goods has been ordered. Last Friday, all pubs, cafes, bars, cinemas and other leisure spaces were ordered to close.
When leaving the house for essential reasons, citizens are advised to keep at least two metres (six feet) away from people that they do not live with; essential trips out should be limited wherever possible.
Other social events, including religious ceremonies such as weddings and baptisms, will also be stopped. Funerals, attended only by immediate family members, will continue to go ahead.
Although the term ‘lockdown’ was not used in the Prime Minister’s address, the measures introduced are similar to those implemented in Italy, Spain, France and other countries, where strict lockdowns are in place.
Over 40,000 people in Italy have been fined for violating lockdown rules since they began.
Currently, 335 people in the UK have died from the virus, with over 6,650 cases confirmed, although the actual number of cases is estimated to be much higher.
Over 350,000 confirmed cases of the virus have occurred worldwide since the outbreak began.
On Tuesday morning, UK mobile networks sent a government message to all customers, which included a link to further information and exemptions on the gov.uk website.
“New rules in force now: you must stay at home,” the message read.
“Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.”
The new measures will be under constant review and may be relaxed in three weeks time, depending on the situation.
Image: AlbanGeller via Wikipedia