Coronavirus: PM Boris Johnson places Britain under lockdown

Stuart Lau

Britain has been placed under a lockdown for at least three weeks to slow the spread of Covid-19, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that “the way ahead is hard” and warned the 66 million Britons that “many lives will sadly be lost”.

Speaking from his official residence at 10 Downing Street in London on Monday, Johnson said that the time “has now come for us all to do more” – and introduced drastic measures like those already adopted by most European countries.

“People will only be allowed to leave their home for the following very limited purposes,” he said. “The police will have the powers to enforce [the rules], including through fines and dispersing gatherings.”

“No prime minister wants to enact measures like this,” Johnson said. “I know the damage that this disruption is doing and will do to people’s lives.”

The government said on Monday that another 54 people had died in the previous 24 hours after testing positive for the coronavirus, raising the country’s pandemic deaths to 335.

The number of confirmed cases rose to 6,650 on Monday, from 5,683 on Sunday.

Under Johnson’s new ban, no one can leave their home except for shopping for basic necessities, medical needs or travelling to and from work if working from home is impossible.

British outbreak ‘accelerating’ amid fears country faces losses like Italy’s

One form of exercise a day will also be allowed, alone or with members of the household.

All shops selling non-essential goods, including clothing and electronics, are to be closed — alongside libraries, playgrounds, outdoor gyms and places of worship.

Social events such as weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies are also banned, but not funerals.

“I can assure you that we will keep these restrictions under constant review,” Johnson told the national audience.

“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.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses Britain from 10 Downing Street on Monday, ordering new lockdown measures to slow the coronavirus outbreak. Photo: AFP

Earlier on Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping told Johnson to “minimise the risk of the spread of the coronavirus”.

Speaking by phone, Xi reminded the British leader that China placed a lot of emphasis on the well-being of the large number of Chinese nationals living in the UK.

"The Chinese government highly emphasised the health and lives of Chinese nationals overseas," Xi said, according to state news agency Xinhua.

Xi said he expected Britain to strengthen cooperation with China. "We hope Britain will take necessary measures to safeguard the health, safety and legitimate rights of Chinese nationals, especially students, in the UK."

Britain becomes the latest in a long line of countries to impose national lockdowns after the Covid-19 coronavirus spread out from China and gradually evolved into a global pandemic.

Johnson has faced criticism for acting too late and for not putting enough effort to stop people from going out.

But he has won praise for financial packages providing that the government will pay 80 per cent of wages on behalf of businesses to avoid mass layoffs during this time of economic uncertainty.

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