UK could face Italy-style lockdown, warns Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has given his most explicit warning yet that the UK might face an Italian-style lockdown to curb coronavirus amid mounting criticism of a mixed message from No 10.

After a weekend of alarm at widely shared pictures of people congregating in parks and at markets, which appeared to suggest some are ignoring official advice on social distancing, the prime minister said more draconian steps could be needed, adding: “If people can’t make use of parks and playgrounds responsibly, in a way that observes the 2 metre rule, then of course we’e going to have to look at further measures.

“We will think about this very actively in the next 24 hours,” Johnson said at his Downing Street press conference.

Symptoms are defined as either:

  • a high temperature – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back
  • a new continuous cough – this means you’ve started coughing repeatedly

NHS advice is that anyone with symptoms should stay at home for at least 7 days.

If you live with other people, they should stay at home for at least 14 days, to avoid spreading the infection outside the home.

After 14 days, anyone you live with who does not have symptoms can return to their normal routine. But, if anyone in your home gets symptoms, they should stay at home for 7 days from the day their symptoms start. Even if it means they’re at home for longer than 14 days.

If you live with someone who is 70 or over, has a long-term condition, is pregnant or has a weakened immune system, try to find somewhere else for them to stay for 14 days.

If you have to stay at home together, try to keep away from each other as much as possible.

After 7 days, if you no longer have a high temperature you can return to your normal routine.

If you still have a high temperature, stay at home until your temperature returns to normal.

If you still have a cough after 7 days, but your temperature is normal, you do not need to continue staying at home. A cough can last for several weeks after the infection has gone.

Source: NHS England on 18 March 2020

“We need to think about the kinds of measures that we’ve seen elsewhere, other countries that have been forced to bring in restrictions on people’s movements altogether.”

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But after Labour’s shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, warned that too many Britons were “either confused by the government’s social distancing measures or choose to ignore them”, critics said the PM’s message on social distancing was still too ambiguous.

Pressed on the issue during a daily briefing at which he announced no new measures, Johnson stressed that parks and other green spaces were vital for people’s mental and physical wellbeing, but also said the public should stay indoors wherever possible.

And while some councils have announced the closure of playgrounds and even parks, Johnson said they should remain open for now, based on scientific advice: “What they’ve always said so far is that the health benefits for the whole of society of keeping the parks and the playgrounds open if we possibly can outweigh the epidemiological value of closing them.”

He said the situation would be “under constant, constant review”, but when asked whether police could be part of any response, he replied “police?” in apparent surprise.

People walk in Greenwich Park in London on Sunday

People walk in Greenwich Park in London on Sunday. Photograph: Peter Summers/Getty Images

In a series of tweets, Ashworth said the messaging on social distancing was confusing, saying: “This cannot continue in a public health emergency.”

He added: “We have called for and welcomed measures including banning mass gatherings and pub closures. But if social distancing measures are not working the government must take stronger action.”

In the interim, devolved governments and councils have taken their own actions, in part to halt the flow of people to open spaces, but also to try to prevent urban dwellers from fleeing to more remote areas, potentially overwhelming local health services.

Nicola Sturgeon announced that ferry companies to Scottish islands have been instructed not to carry tourists and other non-essential travellers.

Visit Cornwall asked holidaymakers online to “please stay away” to help reduce the speed the virus was spreading and avoid “needless lives being lost”, while authorities in Wales made a similar plea.

Some national parks and gardens closed as good weather and Mother’s Day drew crowds. In London, Hammersmith and Fulham council said it was closing all its parks as they had been “full of people this weekend with a significant proportion ignoring government guidelines on social distancing”.



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