UK Politics

‘A moment of national emergency’: Police to enforce lockdown


Boris Johnson's "stay at home" lockdown has been backed by political opponents, business leaders and trade unions, despite fears of major job losses on the high street.

The Prime Minister has ordered all shops apart from food stores and chemists to close immediately for at least three weeks and banned more than one daily exercise and gatherings of more than two people.

But his dramatic announcement – in a momentous TV address – of sweeping restrictions on daily life, with fines of between £30 and £1,000 for people who flout the new rules, has won grudging support.

In a move bringing the UK into line with most of Europe, Mr Johnson has declared a "moment of national emergency" and closed shops selling "non-essential goods", along with playgrounds, libraries and churches.

And while he was reluctant to introduce such tough measures, it is claimed a mutiny threatened by senior cabinet ministers forced him to back demands from his medical and scientific advisers for a crackdown.


People will only be allowed to leave their home for "very limited" purposes:

  • 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
  • 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

Mr Johnson's sombre broadcast came as the Government's Coronavirus Bill, the emergency legislation containing sweeping powers to impose a lockdown, completed its passage through the Commons in a single day.

More from Covid-19

It now moves to the House of Lords and is on course to become law by the end of this week, enabling the Government to enforce the measures announced by the PM, which go far beyond anything seen in wartime.

These measures will come into force immediately:

  • Closing all shops selling non-essential goods,​ including clothing and electronic stores and other premises including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship
  • Closing hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts, campsites, caravan parks, and boarding houses for commercial/leisure use (excluding permanent residents and key workers)
  • Stopping all gatherings of more than two people in public – excluding people you live with
  • Stopping all social events​, including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies, but excluding funerals

Despite bringing down the shutters on most of the UK, the PM is allowing corner shops, petrol stations, parks, post offices, vets, pet shops, hardware stores, banks, newsagents, laundrettes and undertakers to stay open.

Explaining the government's decision, he said in his address: "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.

PM's full statement to the country

Later, after the Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth called for a lockdown, the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: "The Prime Minister is right to call for people to stay at home, protect our NHS and save lives.

"This is the right response to the coronavirus pandemic, and one we have been calling for."

But Mr Corbyn added: "There now needs to be clear guidance to employers and workers about which workplaces should close – and the Government must close the loopholes to give security to all workers, including the self-employed, as well as renters and mortgage holders."

London's Labour mayor, Sadiq Khan, said: "I welcome these new rules and am directly asking all Londoners to follow them at all times in order to save lives.

"These rules are not optional. They are instructions put in place to prevent the spread of this virus. You must follow them.

"Anyone who knows me, knows my liberal instincts, and I do not take this lightly – but these unprecedented circumstances require extraordinary measures."

Commuters were packed in on a Tube train at Leytonstone on Monday
Social distancing puts UK to the test

The acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Ed Davey, said: "Many people will be anxious about the steps the government has taken, but it is the right decision to restrict our normal way of life to tackle this crisis.

"We must do all we can to stop the spread of this virus and I urge people to play their part by following the measures that have been set out, and not risk their own or others' health and wellbeing by ignoring these.

"There are legitimate questions as to whether this step should have been taken sooner and how well the advice of experts is being communicated with the public."

Even the Prime Minister's strongest critics in the trade unions acknowledged that the lockdown was necessary, though they demanded better protection for workers.

Tesco workers in Belfast applauded NHS workers and gave them flowers as they entered to do their shopping
Tesco employees applaud NHS workers

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: "The Prime Minister's statement illustrates the gravity of the situation. This is a national health emergency and every resource, business and community in the country must be laser-focused, pulling together to do what needs to be done to protect Read More – Source