Pubs, restaurants, cinemas and other leisure facilities have been ordered to close from tonight (20 Mar), the Prime Minister has said.
Boris Johnson announced the news in his daily press conference on Friday (20 Mar), with the government telling pubs, cafes, nightclubs, bars, restaurants, theatres, leisure centres and gyms to close from tonight to fight coronavirus.
Until now, the government has currently only advised the public to avoid unnecessary social contact and travel, but London is now expected to face tougher restrictions.
People have also been urged not to congregate in places with large numbers, such as pubs, clubs, restaurants, and theatres.
Residents in both France and Italy have been told to stay at home during their lockdowns, with members of the public having to apply for permission to make trips outside.
Italian citizens have been asked to make an application to prove that their planned travel is necessary, while in France, only the most essential trips are allowed to be made.
Extra police also patrol the streets of cities like Paris, handing out fines of up to €350 (around £330) to those who flout the rules without good reason.
In most countries affected by lockdowns, residents are still allowed out to stock up on supplies from grocery stores, or to exercise - at a safe distance from others.
If the UK, or London specifically, are to be forced into lockdown, it is expected the country will take a similar approach, with the public banned from all non-essential movements.
On Wednesday (18 Mar), the Prime Minister announced that all schools in the UK will close from Friday (20 Mar) “until further notice”, marking another step towards complete lockdown.
How long could a lockdown last?
While a UK lockdown has not yet been announced, if the measure is implemented it is expected to last for at least “several months”, and possibly up to a year to allow the country to get over the worst of the virus.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, leader of the Health Protection Research Group at Nottingham University, told Radio 4’s Today that more people will encounter the coronavirus and become resistant with so-called herd immunity, but said "that will take time".
He said, “You're absolutely right that we can't say how long this will need to go on for.
"I don't know if it could be a year yet. I think we are too far out to make those kind of predictions but I certainly think it could be several months."
What is the current advice in the UK?
The government is currently asking people to reduce their social contact, with those who are most at risk of the virus urged to self-isolate.
This includes avoiding non-essential use of public transport, working from home where possible, avoiding large gatherings and those in smaller public spaces, such as pubs, cinemas, restaurants and theatres, and avoiding gatherings with family and friends.
Those who show symptoms of the virus, including a high temperature and a new continuous cough, should stay at home for 14 days to avoid the spread of infection, along with all other members of the household. Those who live alone should isolate themselves for seven days.
Everyone has been asked to undertake social distancing measures to help delay the spread of coronavirus, with avoidance of non-essential use of public transport, working from home, and avoidance of large gatherings being among the key efforts.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) issued clarification on the difference between who should be in household isolation and who should take social distancing measures on Tuesday (17 Mar).
The DHSC said, “From today we are asking all individuals to follow social distancing measures to delay the spread of the virus.
"If you are 70 or over, under 70 but have an underlying health condition (you are eligible for an adult flu vaccine), or a pregnant woman you are strongly advised to follow the below guidance:
- Avoid contact with someone who is unwell;
- Avoid public transport;
- Work from home;
- Avoid large gatherings, religious congregations, and gatherings in smaller public spaces such as pubs, cinemas, restaurants, theatres, bars, clubs;
- Avoid gatherings with friends and family particularly if someone has symptoms of Covid-19 or has recently been unwell;
- Anyone who has symptoms or anyone who has been in contact with someone symptomatic should not be in contact with a vulnerable person for at least seven days;
- Use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services."
Coronavirus: the facts
What is coronavirus?
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can affect lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called coronavirus.
What caused coronavirus?
The outbreak started in Wuhan in China in December 2019 and it is thought that the virus, like others of its kind, has come from animals.
How is it spread?
As this is such a new illness, experts still aren’t sure how it is spread. But.similar viruses are spread in cough droplets. Therefore covering your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, and disposing of used tissues straight away is advised. Viruses like coronavirus cannot live outside the body for very long.
What are the symptoms?
The NHS states that the symptoms are: a dry cough, high temperature and shortness of breath - but these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. Look out for flu-like symptoms, such as aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose and a sore throat. It’s important to remember that some people may become infected but won’t develop any symptoms or feel unwell.
What precautions can be taken?
Washing your hands with soap and water thoroughly. The NHS also advises to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze; put used tissues in the bin immediately and try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell. Also avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands are clean.
As of Monday 16 March the government advised that everyone should be observing social distancing - avoiding unnecessary travel and working from home where possible. Anyone with a cough or cold symptoms now needs to self-isolate with their entire household for 14 days.
The government has also advised against going to the pub, out for dinner or partaking in any socialising with large groups. This has caused a number of closures across the country. Schools will close from Friday 20 March for the foreseeable future and exams have been cancelled.
The over 70s or anyone who is vulnerable or living with an underlying illness are being asked to be extra careful and stay at home to self-isolate.
For more information on government advice, please check their website- gov.uk
Should I avoid public places?
The advice now is to avoid public places and any non-essential travel. Travel abroad is also being advised against for the next 30 days at least, and many European countries have closed their borders.
What should I do if I feel unwell?
Don’t go to your GP but instead call NHS 111 or look online at the coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and what to do next. https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19
When to call NHS 111
NHS 111 should be used if you feel unwell with coronavirus symptoms, have been in a country with a high risk of coronavirus in the last 14 days or if you have been in close contact with someone with the virus.
Sources: World Health Organisation and NHS