The Prime Minister last night urged the nation to stay at home and said people should only leave for food, medicine, exercise or work if ‘absolutely necessary’.
He also announced a ban on all social gatherings of more than two people in a desperate attempt to stop the spread of the deadly disease.
The practical ramifications of the measures are now starting to sink in with Number 10 today telling people who are dating that they should not visit their partner’s house.
Deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries suggested couples needed to either decide to live together or to remain apart during the crisis as she said that ‘what we do not want is people switching in and out of households’.
However, it is currently unclear whether couples would be prohibited from meeting in public under the government’s two person gathering rules with Downing Street insistent it will now clarify the matter.
Meanwhile, the government has confirmed police will be able to impose fines of £30 on anyone who does not comply with the ban on groups.
And minsters are warning they will increase those fines ‘significantly’ if people ignore what they have been told.
The government also today said that only small numbers of people can attend funerals, clarifying official advice issued last night which said ‘immediate family’ could attend.
Boris Johnson last night put the UK into a state of lockdown in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus
You can’t see your boyfriend or girlfriend, but do still have to go to work, says Number 10
The government today advised boyfriends and girlfriends who do not live together not to visit each other but advised workers to carry on working.
Downing Street said lockdown guidance was clear that people should only leave their homes for food, medicine, exercise or to go to work if ‘absolutely necessary’.
No10 said that made it clear that couples who do not live together should not be going to each other’s house.
However, the government remains adamant that people should continue to go to work if they cannot work from home.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the Commons that ‘where people absolutely cannot work from home, they can still go to work, indeed it’s important that they do to keep the country running’.
Weddings left in limbo after government bans them during lockdown
Engaged couples across the UK were today having to decide whether to cancel their weddings or to try to go ahead with them amid coronavirus uncertainty.
The government last night announced weddings are banned during the lockdown period which is due to be reviewed after three weeks.
The lack of a firm end date for the lockdown means many couples do not know if their ceremonies planned for later in the year will be able to proceed.
That means many are having to make potentially costly decisions to cancel now while others are choosing to gamble.
The lockdown imposed on the UK by the PM represents the most sweeping restriction of social freedoms ever in peacetime.
But what the new rules actually mean for people in terms of how they live their lives is still becoming apparent.
The guidance issued by the government said people should only leave their homes to shop for basic necessities, for one form of exercise a day, for any medical need or for work if ‘absolutely necessary’.
It did not mention any exemption for people who are in a relationship but who do not live together.
Downing Street today said the guidance was ‘clear’ and the ‘rules should be applied to all scenarios’ in a clear statement that people should not be visiting partners.
Asked to clarify the situation, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘I think the rules are clear. You should look at those, they are an instruction from the government given for a very specific reason which is to save lives.
‘People should follow the rules and do so in a common sense way.’
The spokesman said the guidance stated that when people leave their homes they should either do so alone or ‘with members of your own household or if it is for work reasons’.
However, Downing Street said it needed to check whether couples could be allowed to meet up in public.
Dr Harries, the deputy chief medical officer, said people in a relationship effectively needed to decide whether to live together or not and then stick to it.
Speaking at the government’s daily coronavirus press conference in 10 Downing Street, she said: ‘If you are two individuals, two halves of the couple, currently in separate households, ideally they should stay in those households.
‘The alternative might be that for quite a significant period going forward they should just test the strength of their relationship and decide whether one wishes to be permanently resident in another household in which case all of the decisions about exercising, if you are in you should be on your own or within your household, unit would apply.
‘What we do not want is people switching in and out of households. It defeats the purpose of the reduction in social interactions and will allow transmission of disease.
‘So perhaps test really carefully your strength of feeling, stay with the household either together or apart but keep it that way while we go forward because otherwise we will not all be working towards achieving our outcome.’
The government has vowed to stop all gatherings of more than two people in public, potentially leaving the door open to couples – assuming they stay two metres away from each other.
Anyone in a group of more than two people in public will now face a fine of £30 if they are spotted by the police.
The new fining powers will be in place by Thursday at the latest with Downing Street today insistent the £30 figure will be increased if people do not comply.
Meanwhile, anyone who refuses to pay the fine could be forced to appear in court.
Government under growing pressure over construction decision
The government has defended allowing construction work to continue despite the coronavirus lockdown.
Builders and construction workers have said they feel ‘angry and unprotected’ going to work following the introduction of the stricter anti-Covid-19 measures.
But Downing Street said construction work should continue if it can be done following Public Health England and industry guidance.
Workers have been told to stay at least two metres from each other.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘It should continue where it can happen in a way that follows Public Health England and industry guidance. ‘
The PM’s official spokesman said: ‘It will be a fixed penalty notice, it will initially start at £30 but we will keep this under review and can increase it significantly if it is necessary to ensure public compliance.’
He added: ‘Failure to pay the notice could be subject to criminal proceedings and a summary conviction.’
On the issue of funerals, the government’s guidance said only ‘immediate family’ should attend.
Asked to clarify exactly what that meant, the PM’s spokesman said: ‘I think we would expect families to exercise their own discretion in relation to the issue of funerals.
‘They will be best placed to judge what constitutes the people who were closest to the deceased and who they would view as immediate family.’
However, the spokesman insisted funerals must only be attended by small numbers of people.
Mr Johnson said last week that the UK’s lockdown measures will be reviewed after three weeks.
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