Britain Tightens Restrictions, Limits Gatherings to 2 People

'Stay at home,' Boris Johnson tells nation in somber address
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 23, 2020 7:30 PM CDT
Britain Tightens Restrictions, Limits Gatherings to 2 People
Pedestrians walk on Primrose Hill with the skyline of central London as a backdrop on Monday.   (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Britain has become the latest European country to go into effective lockdown to deal with the threat of the coronavirus pandemic, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Monday sweeping curbs on everyday activity that include the banning of any gatherings of more than two people. As well as instructing the public to "stay at home" for all but a few exceptions, Johnson said he was ordering shops that don't sell essential goods, such as food and medicines, to close immediately. In as somber an address to the nation as any prime minister has arguably delivered since World War II, Johnson said it was critical to prevent the virus from spreading between households. Police will be authorized to break up gatherings of more than two people in public, the AP reports, in order to deal with the "biggest threat this country has faced for decades."

"I must give the British people a very simple instruction,” the prime minister said in his address. "You must stay at home." The measures mark a departure from the government's more relaxed approach to the pandemic, which has stood in contrast to the lockdowns in place elsewhere in Europe, notably in Italy, France and Spain. Though Britain has already closed schools, bars and restaurants and urged people to stay home, the advice for people to keep their distance has either been ignored or not understood fully. Concerns over the strategy were stoked in the past few days, when many of the country's open spaces were packed on a sunny weekend.

(More coronavirus stories.)

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