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23 March 2020

Boris Johnson announces the first lockdown and closure of shops selling non-essential goods

Summary

Today Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives an 'address to the nation', delivered on his own, sitting and talking directly to camera, aired later in the day (at 20.30) than the usual daily press briefings, with no press questions. His statement includes these key points. He describes COVID-19 as 'the biggest threat this country has faced for decades', stating that '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'. Johnson states that 'huge numbers' are complying with existing advice but 'from this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction – you must stay at home'. He introduces new measures. People are now only allowed to leave their homes for a small number of purposes (shopping for basic necessities, one form of exercise a day, any medical need, to provide care or help for a vulnerable person, travelling to and from work where absolutely necessary). The police have powers to enforce these rules (fines, dispersing gatherings). To ensure compliance, measures also include:

  • closing all shops selling non-essential goods
  • stopping all gatherings of more than two in public, excluding people from same household
  • stopping all social events.

Parks will stay open for exercise. The government will revisit the restrictions in 3 weeks. Johnson says, 'No prime minister wants to enact measures like this. I know the damage that this disruption is doing and will do to people’s lives, to their businesses and to their jobs.' 'The way ahead is hard, and it is still true that many lives will sadly be lost. And yet it is also true that there is a clear way through.'

Source(s)

Gov.uk speech