Addressing the nation on Monday evening after a three-hour meeting of the government COBRA emergency planning group, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that measures announced so far — which included ordering pubs, bars, and restaurants to close and advising the public to stay at home — were no longer enough to prevent coronavirus spreading through the country too quickly.
Explaining that slowing the development of the virus was the government’s key priority, as preventing too many new cases emerging on any given day would prevent the national health infrastructure from being overwhelmed, the prime minister told the United Kingdom: “The time has now come for us all to do more. From this evening, I must give the British people a very simple instruction: you must stay at home.”
In a far-reaching lockdown that brings Britain in line with the harshest regimes imposed on European nations in the depth of the coronavirus, the prime minister announced a national emergency that was to last for at least three weeks. British residents will not be allowed to leave their homes except in a very limited set of circumstances, and the right of assembly is being severely curtailed, with no more than two people who do not live together being permitted to meet together in public.
The acceptable reasons to leave the home were to shop for food — and even then as infrequently as possible — to exercise once a day, to go to hospital, or to travel to and from essential work.