UK to consider tougher measures to enforce social distancing

Britain could bring in curfews and movement restrictions within days – Johnson

British prime minister Boris Johnson: Britain’s death toll from  coronavirus reaches 281, with the youngest victim aged 18 and the oldest 102.  Photograph: Ian Vogler-WPA Pool/ Getty Images

British prime minister Boris Johnson: Britain’s death toll from coronavirus reaches 281, with the youngest victim aged 18 and the oldest 102. Photograph: Ian Vogler-WPA Pool/ Getty Images

 

Britain could introduce curfews and prohibitions on movement within days if people fail to observe social distancing outdoors, Boris Johnson has warned. He was speaking after Britain’s death toll from coronavirus reached 281, with the youngest victim aged 18 and the oldest 102.

The British prime minister said if people continued to congregate in parks and markets, his government would consider tougher measures to enforce social distancing.

“I don’t think you need to use your imagination very much to see where we might have to go, and we will think about this very actively in the next 24 hours,” he told reporters in Downing Street.

“We need to think about the kinds of measures that we’ve seen elsewhere, other countries that have been forced to bring in restrictions on people’s movements altogether.”

Last week, Downing Street ruled out restricting travel in and out of London or introducing the kind of lockdown imposed in parts of France, Spain and Italy. But Mr Johnson said on Sunday that he would consider introducing such coercive measures at the moment they can have the maximum effect.

“At the moment when the epidemic is hardly spreading at all, that’s not the moment to impose curfews and prohibitions on movement and so on and so forth. You’ve got to wait until, alas, it’s the right moment to do it,” he said.

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez said he would seek to extend for a further 15 days a state of emergency that prohibits people from leaving their homes except for essential purposes such as buying food or seeking medical care. Spain announced 394 new deaths from coronavirus, bringing its total to 1,720, the second-highest figure in Europe after Italy.

German chancellor Angela Merkel has gone into quarantine after a doctor who gave her a vaccine shot against a bacterium that causes pneumonia tested positive for Covid-19, her spokesman said on Sunday. The news came as Germany banned meetings of more than two people unless they were about combating coronavirus.

NHS advice

Mr Johnson’s warning about tougher action on social distancing came as the National Health Service told 1.5 million people with specific medical conditions that make them vulnerable to the virus to stay in their homes for the next 12 weeks.

Among those affected are people undergoing chemotherapy or radical radiotherapy for lung cancer and those with cancers of the blood or bone marrow; people having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer; those on immunosuppression drugs; people with respiratory conditions including severe asthma, COPD and cystic fibrosis; and pregnant women with significant heart disease.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said the government would arrange for food and medicine to be delivered to their homes while they remain in isolation.

“I don’t underestimate what we’re asking of people. It will be tough. But if you are one of these people I want to assure these people on behalf of the government that you are not alone,” he said.