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Coronavirus: Obey social distancing rules - or face lockdown, hints Prime Minister




The Prime Minister told the country to adhere to social distancing rules and hinted that the country would face the kind of lockdowns seen elsewhere.

The government also announced that 1.5 million people identified as vulnerable due to health conditions would be told to stay at home for 12 weeks, with community hubs set up to deliver groceries to them.

Boris Johnson delivers his message (32183041)
Boris Johnson delivers his message (32183041)

The message came as crowds were pictured as the sun shone on Mother’s Day flocking to parks and beaches across the country, despite the coronavirus risk.

“Don’t think that fresh air in itself automatically provides some immunity,” said Boris Johnson. “You have to stay two metres apart; you have to follow the social distancing advice.

“And even if you think you are personally invulnerable, there are plenty of people you can infect and whose lives will then be put at risk.

“And I say this now – on Sunday evening – take this advice seriously, follow it, because it is absolutely crucial.

“And as I have said throughout this process we will keep the implementation of these measures under constant review and, yes of course, we will bring forward further measures if we think that is necessary.”

An 18-year-old with underlying health conditions has become the youngest in the UK to die in the UK.

As of Sunday, there have been 281 deaths and 5,683 confirmed cases in the UK, with the actual number of cases thought to be far higher as tests are only taking place in hospital.

Cambridgeshire had 20 cases as of Sunday. Addenbrooke’s confirmed some patients who were being treated have been able to go home.

The message about social distancing appears to have got through in Cambridge better than in some parts of the country, as an empty King's Parade on Sunday demonstrated. Picture: Keith Heppell
The message about social distancing appears to have got through in Cambridge better than in some parts of the country, as an empty King's Parade on Sunday demonstrated. Picture: Keith Heppell

The NHS in England will send letters to the 1.5 million people it has identified as particularly vulnerable, such as those with specific cancers, severe respiratory conditions and those who have received organ transplants.

The letters, due to arrive from Tuesday, will tell them to stay home at all times for 12 weeks and not go out to the shops, leisure or travel. Text messages will also be sent to those vulnerable individuals whose mobile numbers are known.

Full guidance on the ‘shielding’ measures can be found online.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenricksaid “hubs” will be set up around the country to arrange deliveries of groceries and medicines to these vulnerable individuals.

“Public safety and making sure that those most at risk from the virus continue to get the support they need throughout this period is the Government’s top priority. People should stay at home, protect our NHS and save lives,” he said.

“This will be an especially worrying time for those with serious underlying health conditions and that is why we are urgently acting to ensure extremely vulnerable individuals are taking extra steps to shield themselves, and that the essential items they need are supplied to them.

“We will ensure that vulnerable and older people in our society are left in no doubt of their importance to us and our determination to protect them as best we can. More people will be required to be by themselves at home.”

An individual wears a mask in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell
An individual wears a mask in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

In other developments:

  • McDonald’s announced that it was closing all of its branches
  • John Lewis, which has a store in the Grand Arcade, will close all its stores at the end of trading on Monday
  • Cambridge University Botanic Garden closed its gates, after opening for free on Saturday, because of the difficulty of keeping people apart.

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The Prime Minister’s March 23 message in full

Thank you for coming, and thank you to Robert Jenrick, the Communities Secretary, and Dr Jenny Harries, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer.

I want again to thank everyone in the country today for the huge effort that we are collectively making.

I want to thank the amazing workers in the NHS, everybody working in social care, in every sector, in food distribution, transport, you name it – absolutely everyone who is keeping this country going today.

And I want to thank everyone who is being forced to do something differently today.

Everyone who didn’t visit their mum for Mother’s Day but Facetimed them, Skyped them, rang them instead.

Thank you for your restraint and for what you did.

Everyone who was forced to close a pub or a restaurant or a gym or any other business that could have done fantastic businesses on a great day like this.

Thank you for your sacrifice, I know how tough it must be.

And I can tell you again that this government will be standing behind you – behind British business, behind British workers, employees, self-employed – throughout this crisis.

And the reason we are taking these unprecedented steps to prop up businesses, support businesses and support our economy and these preventative measures is because we have to slow the spread of the disease and to save thousands of lives.

Today we have come to the stage of our plan that I advertised at the outset, when we first set out the plan of the UK government.

When we have to take special steps to protect the particularly vulnerable.

I said the moment would come where we needed to shield those with serious conditions. There are probably about 1.5 million in all.

And in a minute Robert Jenrick will set out the plan in detail.

But this shielding will do more than any other single measure that we are setting out to save life. That is what we want to do.

Also to reduce infection and to slow the spread of the disease.

We have to do more to make sure that the existing measures that we are taking are having the effect that we want.

So it is crucial that people understand tomorrow that the schools are closed.

And tomorrow you should not send your child to school unless you have been identified as a key worker.

And more generally in the view of the way people have responded over the last few days to the measures we have set out I want to say a bit more about how we interact outdoors.

Of course I want people to be able to go to the parks and open spaces and to enjoy themselves – it is crucial for health and mental and physical wellbeing.

But please follow the advice and don’t think that fresh air in itself automatically provides some immunity.

You have to stay two metres apart; you have to follow the social distancing advice.

And even if you think you are personally invulnerable, there are plenty of people you can infect and whose lives will then be put at risk.

And I say this now – on Sunday evening – take this advice seriously, follow it, because it is absolutely crucial.

And as I have said throughout this process we will keep the implementation of these measures under constant review and, yes of course, we will bring forward further measures if we think that is necessary.

Always remember that in following this advice- and I know how difficult that is – that each and every one of us.

You are doing your bit in following this advice to slow the spread of this disease.

The more we collectively slow the spread, the more time we give the NHS to prepare, the more lives we will save, the faster we will get through this.

And always remember – we will get through this, and we will beat it together.



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