After another suspenseful wait, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced major new restrictions to slow the spread of coronavirus.
A lot can change in a week. Social distancing measures came into play last Monday, but one week on and we’re on the cusp of a new set of restrictions that will change our lives once again. Schools, restaurants, cafes and leisure venues have already been ordered to close, we’ve all been asked to stay home and keep a 2-metre distance from others – now we’re going on lockdown.
Why now and what it means
The overarching message is simple – stay at home, protect our NHS and save lives. The fact is, we need to flatten the curve or the NHS won’t be able to handle the load. The aim here is to reduce the number of people needing hospital treatment at one time, by stopping people from passing the virus between households. They’re not asking us to stay home anymore, they’re telling us to. From now on, you’re only allowed to leave the house for four simple reasons.
1) To shop for basic necessities
2) To take one form of exercise a day, either alone or with other members of your household
3) For any medical need to provide care for yourself or a vulnerable person
4) To travel to work, but only when absolutely necessary
“You should not be meeting friends. If your friends ask you to meet, you should say No,” the Prime Minister explained. “You should not be meeting family members who do not live in your home. You should not be going shopping except for essentials like food and medicine – and you should do this as little as you can. And use food delivery services where you can.”
These rules are set in stone and will last a minimum of three weeks. If you don’t follow them, the police will have the power to enforce them with fines and by dispersing gatherings. They’re also closing down all shops selling non-essentials, as well as libraries, playgrounds, outdoor gyms and places of worship. Parks will be open for exercise only, and all outdoor leisure facilities will be closed. Plus, they’re stopping all public gatherings of more than two people.
These are unprecedented measures for unprecedented times. It will impact the lives of every single person in the country, but it has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives. There have now been 335 deaths in the UK, with 6,650 confirmed cases. Here in Leeds, there have been 35 cases, but because we’re only testing hospitalised patients that number is likely much higher and we’ve seen how steep the curve is in places like London, so it’s time to do our bit and stay inside.