- A senior government source has told The Times of London that a full UK lockdown is now “inevitable.”
- Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a press conference on Sunday that a broader lockdown would be considered over the coming days.
- Images of Brits flocking to public spaces are all over social media despite a surge in coronavirus deaths.
- The latest data indicates the UK is just two weeks behind the level of crisis seen in Italy.
- The UK has so far recorded at least 5,683 confirmed coronavirus cases and 281 deaths.
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A full lockdown of the UK in which the public will be barred from gathering in public spaces is now “inevitable,” an anonymous senior government source told The Times of London in an article published Monday.
“The prime minister will have the full support of the Cabinet and the country at large if he goes ahead with this,” the source said.
“It is inevitable – you just have to look at other countries. The sooner you do it the better.”
According to the BBC, possible new measures include closing all nonessential shops and greater clampdowns on people not fulfilling existing guidelines.
Govt considering next steps like closing non-essential retail or whether to start treating people flouting the stay at home advice as acting against the law – all being discussed – huge decisions, nothing final
— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) March 23, 2020
A UK lockdown would perhaps surprise few who watched Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s press conference on Sunday.
Images filled social media over the weekend of the public flocking to national parks, markets, and open spaces.
The latest travel data also suggests London is lagging behind all other European cities in terms of shutting down its movement.
???? STOP THIS NOW ????
Columbia Road flower market, East London.
— Dino Sofos (@dinosofos) March 22, 2020
We’re tracking real-time data to get an indication of how and when countries are locking down, and which Asian countries are getting back up and running.
1) Road traffic levels are plummeting across Europe, though London is lagging pic.twitter.com/0WScFGHfwY
— John Burn-Murdoch (@jburnmurdoch) March 22, 2020
Asked about the failure of Brits to take the crisis as seriously as elsewhere in Europe, Johnson said he would have to act soon unless the public changed its behaviour.
“I say as firmly and strongly as I can to everybody that going outside now, taking exercise, enjoying yourself – you’ve got to observe social distancing,” he said at a press conference inside Downing Street.
“If people can’t do that, won’t do that, don’t do that, we will, of course, have to bring in tougher measures.”
Asked what those measures would be, he replied that curfews would be implemented in line with other European countries.
“I don’t think you need to use your imagination very much to see where we might have to go, and we will think about this very, very actively in the next 24 hours,” he said.
Is it all too late for the UK?
The latest data shows that the UK is roughly two weeks behind Italy in terms of its coronavirus death toll, with the rate of increase slightly ahead of where Italy was at this stage.
Of course, at this stage in their outbreak, Italy and many other nations were already implementing the sort of draconian lockdowns the UK prime minister appears so reluctant to pursue.
Without such a lockdown, the UK looks likely to soon meet, if not exceed, the level of crisis being seen in Italy, with all of the dire social costs that would entail.
The UK government’s slow response has taken heavy criticism in recent days, with the normally supportive Times newspaper leading with an editorial castigating the prime minister on Monday and comparing his slow response to Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Nazi Germany.
BuzzFeed News also reports that failure to act soon could lead to a “full-scale mutiny” by Johnson’s Cabinet.
With such pressure building for a tougher response from the government, a lockdown of at least parts of the UK within days or weeks now looks all but certain.