The prime minister has closed all nonessential shops, banning meetings of more than two people and requiring people to stay in their homes, except for trips for food or medicine.
Boris Johnson announced yesterday (23 March) that he would place Britain under a virtual lockdown, closing all nonessential shops, banning meetings of more than two people, and requiring people to stay in their homes, except for trips for food or medicine.
People who flout the new restrictions, the prime minister said, will be fined by the police.
The steps, which Mr. Johnson outlined in a televised address to the nation, bring him into alignment with European leaders like President Emmanuel Macron of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who have all but quarantined their countries in a desperate bid to slow the outbreak.
“No prime minister wants to enact measures like this,” a grave Mr. Johnson said. “I know the damage that this disruption is doing and will do to people’s lives, to their businesses and to their jobs.”
But while these were the most draconian restrictions placed on the British people since World War II, Mr. Johnson is still leaving a bit of breathing room.
The prime minister said people also could leave their houses for exercise, either alone or with family members, and he did not close parks in London, which became a symbol of Britain’s nonchalant response this weekend when they were thronged with people.
Nor is Britain requiring that people who leave the houses carry documents, as France now does. Mr. Johnson did not detail what fines those who did not comply with the rules would face.
Still, as the wail of ambulance sirens echoed through London’s largely empty streets on Monday, there was evidence that Britons were belatedly coming to terms with the need for ordinary life to come to a halt.
The number of confirmed cases in Britain rose to 6,650 on Monday, up from 5,683 a day earlier, while the death toll jumped by 54, to 335.
British officials warn that the country is about two weeks behind Italy in the spread of the virus, suggesting that those numbers are about to balloon.