- London could be placed into coronavirus lockdown within days.
- Pubs and restaurants could be closed with strict controls placed on public movement.
- Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Wednesday described plans by the UK government to impose “stringent measures” imminently.
- The police and even the army could help enforce the restrictions and guard supermarkets.
- Downing Street sources told Business Insider that any lockdown would not happen before Friday.
- A spokesperson for Prime Minister Boris Johnson denied plans to restrict travel into and out of the city.
- Read the latest live updates on the plans for a London lockdown here.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
London could be placed into lockdown within days as the number of coronavirus cases in the capital continues to rise well above the rest of the United Kingdom.
Under the plans said to be under consideration by UK officials, pubs and restaurants could be closed and heavy restrictions placed on movement by the public.
The police could enforce the restrictions, with some reports suggesting the army is also being mobilized to help keep order.
The rumours of a lockdown, which have been spreading among officials for days, ignited Wednesday when Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who is regularly briefed on the UK government’s plans to tackle the novel coronavirus, said the UK government would announce “more stringent measures” for London imminently.
Asked about rumours of a lockdown, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon, “We will not hesitate to bring forward further and faster measures if we think that’s necessary.”
On Thursday the UK government was expected to bring forward emergency legislation giving the UK authorities powers to shut down pubs and restaurants, “restrict or prohibit events and gatherings” and limit activity in “any place, vehicle, train, vessel or aircraft.”
Both the Daily Mirror and The Daily Telegraph report that such drastic measures will most likely be rolled out first in the capital, where the number of coronavirus cases is racing ahead compared with the rest of the UK.
The Financial Times reported that the restrictions could initially last for weeks and involve “only one person allowed to leave home at a time, with no entry to local shopping areas.”
It added: “Supermarkets would be guarded by police, while pharmacies would be among the few other shops to remain open.”
Mayor Sadiq Khan also announced Wednesday that London’s public-transport network would be scaled back with 40 stations closed across the city.
NEW: @TfL have announced a reduced service to enable key workers to make essential journeys.
➡️ Up to 40 stations now closed
➡️ Waterloo and City line and the Night Tube suspended from tomorrow
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) March 19, 2020
A UK government source told Business Insider on Wednesday that a London lockdown would not take place Thursday but declined to say whether one would take place Friday.
Another UK government source told the Mirror that a lockdown in the capital, in which travel and mass gatherings could be restricted by authorities, was “imminent.”
A spokesperson for UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday denied some of the reported details about plans for a possible London lockdown.
The spokesperson said: “There are no plans to close down the transport network in London and there is zero prospect of any restriction being placed on travelling in or out of London.”
They also dismissed reports that there would be limits on the number of people allowed out of their homes at any time as “not true” and said there were “no plans” to use the army to maintain public order.
However, Downing Street sources suggest new measures to enforce the closure of pubs and restaurants are under consideration.
About a third of all COVID-19 cases in the UK have been identified in the capital, where anecdotal reports suggest that many people continue to disregard advice not to visit bars and restaurants.
Two sources close to Khan told Business Insider he had not been consulted about any lockdown.
“We haven’t heard anything from them about this,” one said.
“Maybe Downing Street don’t know” when it will happen, the person added.