Boris Johnson has outlined strict new measures to tackle the spread of coronavirus, including a ban on public gatherings of more than two people.
He said people should leave home only to exercise once a day, travel to and from work where “absolutely necessary”, shop for essential items and to fulfil any medical or care needs.
He also ordered the immediate closure of shops selling non-essential goods.
But police said they had received lots of calls asking what was still allowed.
As of Monday (23rd March), some 335 people have died with the virus in the UK.
Speaking from Downing Street on Monday, the prime minister said the country faced a “moment of national emergency” and staying at home was necessary to protect the NHS, save lives and tackle “the biggest threat this country has faced for decades”.
Police and local authorities will have powers to disperse gatherings, including through fines.
The restrictions would be under constant review and a relaxation of the rules would be considered in three weeks, he said.
“To put it 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 coronavirus but from other illnesses as well,” he said.
The new guidance says people should only leave their homes for one of four reasons:
- Shopping for basic necessities such as food and medicine. Shopping trips should be as infrequent as possible
- One form of exercise a day such as a run, walk or cycle. This should be done alone or only with people you live with
- Any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person. This includes moving children under the age of 18 between their parents’ homes, where applicable. Key workers or those with children identified as vulnerable can continue to take their children to school
- Travelling to and from work, but only where work absolutely cannot be done from home
Even when following the above guidance, people should minimise the amount of time spent out of their homes and should keep two metres (6ft) away from people they do not live with.
The government is also stopping all social events, including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies – but funerals attended by immediate family members are allowed.
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said if people did not follow the rules, the police would “have the tools to ensure they are penalised and punished if they put others’ lives at risk”.