The United Kingdom on Friday made the drastic move of ordering pubs, restaurants, gyms, and other business to close as part of its efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Following agreement between all the formations of the United Kingdom, all the involved administrations, we are collectively telling cafes, pubs, bars, and restaurants to close tonight as soon as they reasonably can and not to open tomorrow. Though, to be clear, they can continue to provide takeout services,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced at a press conference.
The order will also apply to nightclubs, theaters, cinemas, gyms, and leisure centers.
“These are places where people come together, and indeed the whole purpose of these businesses is to bring people together. But the sad thing is I’m afraid today, for now, at least physically, we need to keep people apart,” Johnson said.
The prime minister added that he recognizes that the edict clashes with “the inalienable free-born right of people born in England to go to the pub.”
“Listening to what I just said, some people may of course be tempted to go out tonight. And I say to you: Please don’t,” Johnson continued. “You may think that you’re invincible, but there is no guarantee that you will get mild symptoms, and you can still be a carrier of the disease and pass it on to others.”
The move comes after Johnson faced mounting pressure to do more to stop the spread of the deadly respiratory virus and enforce the “social distancing” measures that he announced on Monday.
Johnson’s government consulted with business groups and trade unions before issuing Friday’s order, which will be accompanied by a benefits package for affected businesses, including an increase in universal credit. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak also announced Friday that money will be made available to pay 80 percent of employee wages up to £2,500 a month for workers affected by the crisis. Sunak had already announced additional measures to buoy affected businesses, including £330 million in taxpayer-backed loans, earlier this week.
Britain currently has more than 4,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, and 177 confirmed deaths from COVID-19, the disease the virus causes.