PM declares state of emergency

Boris Johnson addresses the nation on Monday.

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On Monday night Britain was put on a state of emergency as Prime Minister Boris Johnson brought in unprecedented new measures to combat the coronavirus.

Mr Johnson ordered everyone to stay at home unless going out for a handful of essential purposes, and those who flouted the order risk being fined by the police.

Ordering the vast majority of the population to remain in their homes, the prime minister said in an address to the nation on Monday night that people would only be allowed outside to buy food or medication, help the vulnerable, exercise alone once a day, or to travel to work if absolutely necessary.

The message was echoed by Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister.

She said that those who work in care or have ‘caring responsibilities’ should continue to do so, but should also implement social distancing and hand hygiene at all times.

‘The overall message is very clear,’ said Mrs Sturgeon, speaking on Tuesday lunchtime. ‘People must stay at home. I know how hard this is for everybody but people should not be meeting friends, they should not be meeting family members who live outside of the home.

‘For all of us right now, life should not be feeling normal. If it is, then you are almost certainly not sticking to the rules we are asking people to abide by. I am confident the vast majority of people will abide by the rules.’

Later this week the Scottish Parliament will bring forward emergency legislation to help with enforcement.

The first minister added: ‘I want to be very clear we will use these powers if necessary.’

The new restrictions mean people will only be allowed to leave their homes for:

  • 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, not in groups.
  • Any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.
  • Travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home.

Police will have the powers to enforce the rules, including through fines and dispersing gatherings. To ensure compliance, the government will:

  • 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.
  • Stop all gatherings of more than two people in public – excluding people you live with.
  • Stop all social events, including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies, but excluding funerals.
  • Parks will remain open for exercise, but gatherings will be dispersed.

The prime minister explained: ‘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.’