British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told cafes, pubs, restaurants, gyms and cinemas across the country to close and stay shut indefinitely to help slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.
“I do accept that what we’re doing is extraordinary; we’re taking away the ancient, inalienable right of free-born people of the United Kingdom to go to the pub, and I can understand how people feel about that,” Mr Johnson said.
“It’s a huge wrench.
“It’s heartbreaking to think of the businesses that will face difficulties as a result of the measures this country has had to take.”
Mr Johnson said the measures were intended to be temporary, with the length of the closures set to depend on how well the UK slowed down the spread of COVID-19.
Businesses could continue to provide takeaway services, he said.
Pubs, restaurants, gyms and cinemas across London will close indefinitely. (Wikimedia commons: Francois Bianco)
The United Kingdom so far has 3,983 confirmed cases of coronavirus from 66,976 people tested.
The Government’s scientists say the virus is quickly spreading across London, partly because some people are not obeying government advice to isolate themselves.
“Some people may of course be tempted to go out tonight and I say to those people please don’t,” Mr Johnson said.
Following Mr Johnson’s announcement, British Finance Minister Rishi Sunak launched a huge stimulus package to stabilise Britain’s virus-hit economy, including the Government paying the wages of workers in the country.
“Today I can announce that for the first time in our history the Government is going to step in and pay people’s wages,” Mr Sunak said at a news conference.
Mr Sunak said the Government would give grants to cover 80 per cent of a worker’s salary of up to 2,500 pounds a month if businesses kept them on staff.
Any employers in the country will be eligible for the “coronavirus job retention scheme”, and there will be no limit on the amount of funding available.
“The economic intervention that I am announcing today is unprecedented in the history of the British state,” he said.
A total of 177 patients have died in the UK after testing positive for the virus, the health ministry said on Friday, up from 144 on Thursday.