First it was advice, now it’s an order. Boris Johnson has issued a stark message to the country: “At this moment of national emergency… stay at home.” Speaking after the UK death toll reached 335,the prime minister introduced unprecedented restrictions on everyday life, meaning people must only leave their house for one of four reasons – to exercise once a day, to travel to and from work where “absolutely necessary”, to shop for essential items, and to fulfil any medical or care needs.
Shops selling non-essential goods have been told to shut, along with libraries and children’s playgrounds, and gatherings in public of more than two people who do not live together will be prohibited. The restrictions will be in place for at least three weeks and police will have the power to enforce them, including through fines. Read the prime minister’s statement in fulland geta more detailed breakdownof the new rules.
The BBC’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, saysit’s still not quite the kind of total crackdown seen in other countries, at least not yet – no curfews, for example – and there will be a time on the other side of this crisis to analyse whether the government made the right decisions at the right time.
In Italy, the worst-hit country, the latest daily increase in deaths was the smallest since last Thursday, raising hope that stringent restrictions on public life are starting to have an effect.The BBC’s Sima Kotecha describesthe haunting experience of Rome under lockdown.
In the US, where 481 people have died, state governors and city mayors are pleading for more help from the federal government. However,the BBC’s Anthony Zurcher explainswhy the president may be having second thoughts about following suit with a large-scale lockdown.
It is clearly not a good time for the world and it is not a good time for relations between the US and China. President Donald Trump has repeatedly chosen to call the coronavirus the “Chinese virus”. The president and his secretary of state have both denounced China for its failings in the initial handling of the outbreak. Meanwhile, social media in China has spread stories that the pandemic has been caused by a US military germ warfare programme; rumours that gained considerable traction. But this is not just a war of words, something more fundamental is going on.
The drastic measures announced by Boris Johnson are reflected in dramatic headlines.“End of freedom”, the Daily Telegraph declares. “Britain shuts up shop”, the Daily Mail says, while the Sun has a picture of a giant padlock with the headline “House arrest”. As the Financial Times puts it, the prime minister has been “forced to close Britain”. While there’s widespread support for the measures, there’s also a feeling that, as the i puts it, the prime minister has dragged his heels. The Guardian says he significantly “escalated his language” after days of being accused of “sending mixed messages about what the public should do”. Leo McKinstry, writing in the Daily Express, says the imposition of these “savage rules” will have been particularly difficult for the PM, who is “an optimistic liberal at heart, with a deep suspicion of the big state”, but he had no alternative.