UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tonight told Brits to stay at home for the next three weeks, at least, to thwart the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
In short, Britons should remain indoors, and work from home if at all possible. They should only leave to buy food and medication, exercise once a day, or travel to work if it's absolutely necessary or essential.
Under sweeping stricter measures, announced on Monday evening, all shops in the UK deemed non-essential will be shut, and meetings of more than two people, excluding those you live with, are banned. People should also keep their distance from one another. The police are authorized to fine those flouting the rules, and break up gatherings.
The public will be allowed out of their homes for "one form of exercise" a day and only with those they live with – which will leave many Brits wondering if that’s compulsory. Weddings, concerts, and similar affairs, except funerals, will be forbidden. Campsites, certain parks, and tourist spots will be off limits.
“The coronavirus is the biggest threat this country has faced for decades,” Johnson said in his five-minute telly address, which you can watch below.
“You should not be going shopping except for essentials like food and medicine – and you should do this as little as you can. And use food delivery services where you can.”
The Prime Minister made a particular point of saying electronics shops will be shut. Any travel for work that can be done from home is prohibited – Microsoft Teams and Zoom network load-balancing managers may be sweating.
Johnson insisted the government will have a support system in place for Brits caught up in the disruption, and said the restrictions are under constant review. There are fears this safety net won't catch self-employed people and contractors who may lose work during the pandemic shutdown.
“In this fight we can be in no doubt that each and every one of us is directly enlisted,” he said. “Each and every one of us is now obliged to join together, to halt the spread of this disease. To protect our NHS and to save many many thousands of lives.”
You can find the government's stay-at-home rules for people, here [PDF] and for biz premises, here [PDF]. We note that restaurants must close, except for delivery and takeaway, as well as hotels, pubs, and clubs, and shops, except supermarkets, corner stores, petrol stations, bike shops, pet stores, post offices, banks, car rentals, and others deemed essential.
There is no mention of manufacturers and similar companies: the UK's kinda-lockdown appears to target so-called non-essential communal businesses, such as clothes and tech shops, restaurants, bars, hairdressers, gyms, cafes, and hotels. Professional offices and factories could continue, though they really ought to have their employees stay at home for everyone's sake.
Britain is not alone in its almost-lockdown: the San Francisco Bay Area first, then the whole of California in the US, has been in similar circumstances for a week already, and other states are following suit, while France and Italy have been under strict quarantine for a while now. Expect a baby boom and divorce spike by Christmas.
There are 6,700 reported cases of COVID-19 in the UK, and 336 deaths, out of 375,000 and 16,411 worldwide, respectively as of, well, right now. ®