The prime minister outlined COVID-19 as the biggest threat this country has faced for decades, this country not being alone with the rest of the world seeing the devastating impact. He mentioned quite 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 COVID-19 but from other illnesses as well. He explained 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. There is a need to slow down the spread of the disease in order to reduce the number of people needing hospital treatment at any one time and therefore protecting the NHS’s ability to cope – and save more lives. From last night (23rd March 2020), he gave the British people a very simple instruction – you must stay at home. He stressed that the critical thing we must do is stop the disease spreading between households. That is why people will only be allowed to leave their home for the following 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; and
- travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home.
He mentioned you should not be meeting friends or meeting family members who do not live in your home. Shopping should only be done for essentials like food and medicine – and you should do this as little as you can. He also encouraged food delivery services where possible. He went onto explain, if you don’t follow the rules the police will have the powers to enforce them, including through fines and dispersing gatherings. To ensure compliance with the Government’s instruction to stay at home, the following took immediate effect:
- the closure of all shops selling non-essential goods, including clothing and electronic stores and other premises including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship;
- stop all gatherings of more than two people in public – excluding people you live with;
- stop all social events, including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies, but excluding funerals.
Parks will remain open for exercise, but gatherings will be dispersed. The prime minister assured us that the restrictions are under constant review with the possibility of being relaxed in three weeks if the evidence shows they can. He went onto to say, with the time we buy by staying at home this will allow time to increase stocks of equipment, work on a vaccine, increase our stocks of equipment, accelerate our search for treatments. He thanked everyone who is working flat out to beat the virus from the supermarket staff to the transport workers to the carers to the nurses and doctors on the frontline.
The government have since updated this guidance as from 10/05/2020