All cafes, pubs, restaurants, gyms and similar venues across the UK have been ordered to close from Friday evening for the foreseeable future, as Boris Johnson said it was vital to take more stringent steps to reduce the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
At a press conference at Downing Street, the prime minister thanked people for responding to official encouragement this week to stay away from such places but said the time had come for more action.
“The speed of our eventual recovery depends entirely on our collective ability to get on top of the virus now and that means we have to take the next steps on scientific advice,” he said. “And following our plan we are strengthening the measures announced on Monday.
“We need now to push down further on that curve of transmission between us,” Johnson added. It would, he acknowledged, be “a wrench” for people, and “heartbreaking” for businesses.
With the agreement of the three devolved governments, he said, “we are telling – telling – cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants to close tonight, as soon as they reasonably can, and not open tomorrow”. They would be allowed to sell takeaway food and drink.
The same instruction was being given to nightclubs, theatres, cinemas, gyms and leisure centres. The new social distancing measures would be reviewed every month to see if any could be relaxed.
There was brief confusion when the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, who was standing next to Johnson, referred to “shops” as being part of the forced closure. This was later clarified, with No 10 saying this was not the case.
A full list of affected venues tweeted by the communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, also mentioned betting shops, bingo halls, casinos, spas, museums and galleries.
Johnson urged people not to decide to go out one final time on Friday: “Please don’t. You may think you are invincible, but there is no guarantee you will get mild symptoms, and you can still be a carrier of the disease and pass it on to others.”
Answering questions, the prime minister confirmed that, if needed, the government would enforce the closures, but added: “In reality I think everyone can see the imperative of doing what is necessary.”
Responding to another question, Johnson seemed to dilute the message on social distancing, especially from older people, by saying he hoped to visit his mother on Mother’s Day this Sunday.
There had been expectations that such closures would take place only in London, which has notably greater levels of coronavirus infection than other parts of the country.
The capital has also had more deaths than any other part of the UK – about a third of the total.
The government had been considering a formal ban on Thursday and was braced to announce it, but pulled back. Among senior government figures there was a deep reluctance to issue outright banning orders.
Ministers have been under growing pressure to act more decisively, with the shadow health secretary, Jon Ashworth, calling on Friday for immediate action. “It is time for resolute action and not just advice,” he said. “The prime minister must take urgent steps today.
“Many are now questioning why pubs and restaurants are still open. It’s not good enough to ask people simply not to go to pubs. Government must act now, shut them while protecting the income of staff and supporting business. If ministers don’t think it’s correct they must explain why.”
At the press conference Sunak said he was establishing a coronavirus job protection scheme to help employers hit by the outbreak. He said they would be able to apply to HM Revenue and Customs to cover 80% of the wages of staff they keep on up to £2,500 a month.
Source Website Boris Johnson announces closure of all UK pubs and restaurants | World news