- UK bars, restaurants, gyms, and cinemas will all close as Britain heads toward a coronavirus lockdown, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday.
- Further restrictions could be imposed on shops and other premises if the crisis escalates.
- Eighteen more people have died from the coronavirus in London alone in the past 24 hours.
- Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced more measures to protect businesses and jobs, saying the government would pay the wages of employees kept out of work because of the coronavirus pandemic.
- As of Friday morning, there were 3,983 confirmed coronavirus cases and 177 deaths across the UK.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The UK’s bars, restaurants, gyms, nightclubs, leisure centres, and cinemas will all be ordered to close on Friday night following a surge of coronavirus cases across Britain.
Many Brits had ignored official government advice to avoid socialising and stay at home, leading Prime Minister Boris Johnson to order the restrictions on Friday.
“We need to push down further on this curve,” Johnson said at a press conference.
“Following agreement between all the four nations of the United Kingdom, all the devolved administrations, we are collectively telling cafes, bars, pubs, and restaurants to close tonight as soon as they reasonably can and not to open tomorrow.”
He said the government was “also telling nightclubs, theatres, cinemas, gyms, and leisure centres to close on the same timescale.”
He added that restaurants would still be allowed to provide takeaway services.
Johnson said he was reluctant to impose restrictions that “go against the freedom-loving instincts of the British people.”
However, he added: “We will get through this. We will get through it together, and we will beat this virus.”
Watch Johnson announce a coronavirus lockdown:
“I know this seems to go against the freedom-loving instincts of the British people”
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) March 20, 2020
There had been reports that such controls could be applied only to London, as the number of coronavirus cases in the capital city has risen faster than in the rest of the UK.
As of Friday morning, there were 3,983 confirmed coronavirus cases and 177 deaths across the UK. London had more than 1,000 cases.
However, the broader lockdown came amid experts’ predictions that the UK could be just two weeks behind the level of pandemic seen in Italy.
Eighteen deaths from the virus were recorded at London hospitals in the past 24 hours alone, with Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow declaring a “critical incident.”
A senior director at one London acute trust told the Health Service Journal that the crisis in London was escalating faster than anticipated.
“Given we’re in the low foothills of this virus, this is f—ing petrifying,” the senior director said.
The latest move could be followed by tougher action if the crisis escalates, UK government sources have told Business Insider.
A representative for Johnson on Thursday denied some of the previously reported details about plans for a London-specific lockdown.
“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,” the representative said.
They also said that reports that there would be limits on the number of people allowed out of their homes at any time were “not true” and that there were “no plans” to use the army to maintain public order.
The government promises to pay the wages of UK workers
In the press conference on Friday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a series of measures to protect businesses and their employees from the impact of the pandemic.
Sunak said the government would use grants to pay 80% of the salaries of Brits still on payrolls but forced out of work – up to £2,500 a month – to prevent them from losing their jobs.
He also announced that the value-added tax would be deferred for the next quarter, meaning businesses will not have to pay the VAT until the end of June at the earliest.
The UK government has also injected more money into the welfare state by increasing both the universal credit and the working tax credit by £1,000 a year. Sunak said this would help more than 4 million households nationwide.