UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered to impose a three-week quarantine in the United Kingdom to contain the novel coronavirus infection in the country.
"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. Because the critical thing we must do is stop the disease spreading between households," Johnson said in a BBC broadcast.
Starting from tonight, residents of the country will be allowed to leave their homes for only "very limited purposes," TASS quoted him as saying.
Residents will be allowed shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible; and one form of an outdoor exercise a day. They will be also be allowed to leave homes for "any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person" and for "travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home."
The government ordered immediate closure of all shops selling non-essential goods.
All social events, such as weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies, will be prohibited, excluding funerals. Playgrounds, outdoor gyms and places of worship will be closed. Parks will remain open for exercise, but gatherings will be dispersed.
Police will control the implementation of those instructions, including by imposing fines and dispersing gatherings. In the coming days, the country will adopt a bill on fines for violators of the quarantine.
All those measures are aimed at slowing down the pace of the infection and prevent the overload of the healthcare system that might lead to an increase in the morality rate.
"And I can assure you that we will keep these restrictions under constant review. We will look again in three weeks, and relax them if the evidence shows we are able to," Johnson said. "But at present there are just no easy options. The way ahead is hard, and it is still true that many lives will sadly be lost."
At the same time, Johnson added that the national healthcare system will be boosted by 7,500 previously retired doctors and nurses. The country will accelerate its search for treatment and vaccines and will buy "millions of testing kits that will enable us to turn the tide on this invisible killer."
"Each and every one of us is now obliged to join together to halt the spread of this disease, to protect our NHS and to save many many thousands of lives. And I know that as they have in the past so many times, the people of this country will rise to that challenge. And we will come through it stronger than ever. We will beat the coronavirus and we will beat it together," the premier said.
On Monday night, the House of Commons of the UK parliament unilaterally approved a bill that expands the powers of the authorities and police in dealing with the outbreak. The bill passed all stages of parliamentary consideration in just one day and is now to be approved by the House of Lords and signed by the Queen, which is practically a mere formality.
The bill vests police and immigration officers and medical workers with the right to detain people who might be infected with the novel coronavirus, to restrict their freedom and to impose fines if they refuse to pass laboratory tests for the disease.
The document also authorizes the authorities to close kindergartens, schools, officers, restaurants and shops, to prohibit and disperse mass gatherings if necessary. It also allows for tough measures to ensure that all citizens have sufficient food.
The document allows to bypass bureaucratic difficulties for people on a medical leave and for retired doctors and nurses who decided to join the national struggle against the coronavirus.
The bill also simplifies the cremation procedure.
As of Monday, the United Kingdom had 6,650 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus, with 335 deaths. According to experts, the disease is spreading faster than it did in Italy during the corresponding period.
The UK government admits that the real number of those infected could be way bigger than the number of confirmed cases.
A pneumonia outbreak caused by the COVID-19 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV) was reported in China’s city of Wuhan, a large trade and industrial center with a population of 12 million, in late December 2019. Cases of the new coronavirus have also been reported from more than 150 countries and territories, including Russia. The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially described the situation as a pandemic.