Coronavirus: What are the new restrictions and why are they needed?

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A deserted Westminster Bridge is pictured looking northImage copyright
AFP

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a series of new restrictions to fight the coronavirus outbreak in a televised address from 10 Downing Street.

What are the new measures?

The prime minister said:

  • Shops selling “non-essential goods” including clothes and electronics stores will be closed immediately
  • Libraries, playgrounds, outdoor gyms and places of worship will also close
  • Gatherings of more than two people (excluding people who live together) will be banned
  • There will be no weddings or baptisms but funerals will be allowed
  • Parks will remain open but people are only to go out to exercise once a day

Mr Johnson said that if these rules are not followed then police will have the powers to enforce them, including through fines and dispersing gatherings.

People are also being told not to meet friends or family members who do not live with them.

Mr Johnson said people would only be allowed to leave their homes in future for specific and limited purposes:

  • Shopping for “basic necessities”, as infrequently as possible. People should use delivery services, where they can
  • Medical reasons, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
  • Travelling to and from work, but only if it is “absolutely necessary”

The measures will last for three weeks from 23 March before being reviewed.

Why are tougher restrictions being introduced?

The government had already told people that to prevent the spread of coronavirus they should only go out when necessary – for example, to buy food and medicine, or for exercise.

When out, people have been told to keep at least 2m (6ft) apart from other people. This is known as social distancing.

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Getty Images

Image caption

Clapham Common in London was among the parks across the UK busy over the weekend

However, since this advice was issued, there have been many examples of people not following it.

At the weekend, parks and open spaces were packed with people. Snowdonia National Park, for example, said it had experienced the “busiest ever visitor day in living memory”.

And with the reduction in train services across the UK and tube trains on the London Underground, passengers on their way to work were crowded together on Monday.

What has the UK already done?

People had already been urged to work from home where possible, and not to visit pubs, restaurants, cafes, theatres and other venues.

Last Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that these places should all close, although takeaways could still offer a service.

Schools also shut on Friday, although some have been kept open to provide a service for the children of key workers, such as NHS staff.

Why do people need to stay apart?

Coronavirus spreads when an infected person coughs small droplets into the air. These can be breathed in, or cause an infection if you touch a surface they have landed on, and then touch your face with unwashed hands.

How does the UK compare to other countries?

Many countries have already imposed severe restrictions on their populations.

  • The whole of Italy has been on lockdown since 9 March, with people only allowed out if strictly necessary
  • Meetings of more than two have been banned in Germany. One German state, Bavaria, has implemented a full lockdown for its citizens
  • More and more US states have introduced severe restrictions, with one in three Americans now being told not to leave home
  • Australia has shut down non-essential services, although schools remain open in some states

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