- UK bars, restaurants, gyms, and cinemas will all close as Britain heads towards coronavirus lockdown.
- Further restrictions could be imposed on shops and other premises if the crisis escalates.
- 18 more people died of the coronavirus in London alone in the past 24 hours.
- UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced more measures for protecting businesses and jobs.
- He said the government would pay the wages of employees kept out of work by coronavirus.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories
The UK's bars, restaurants, gyms, nightclubs, leisure centres, and cinemas will all be ordered to close down tonight following a surge of coronavirus cases across Britain.
Many Brits had ignored official government advice to avoid socialising and stay at home, leading Prime Minister Boris Johnson to order the restrictions on Friday.
"We need to push down further on this curve," Johnson told a press conference on Friday afternoon.
"Following agreement between all the four nations of the United Kingdom, all the devolved administrations, we will be telling cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants to close tonight as soon as they reasonably can and not to open tomorrow...
"We're also telling nightclubs, cinemas, theatres, gyms, and leisure centres to close on the same timescale."
Johnson said he was reluctant to impose the restrictions which "go against the freedom-loving instincts of the British people."
However, he added that "we will get through this. We will get through this together and we will beat this virus."
Watch Boris Johnson announce coronavirus lockdown
â€œI know this seems to go against the freedom-loving instincts of the British peopleâ€
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces further restrictions, adding â€œwe will get through it together and beat this virusâ€https://t.co/p3XE5aYSok pic.twitter.com/Z5GPND0HQz — BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) March 20, 2020
There had been reports that such controls could only be applied to London as the number of COVID-19 cases in the capital city continues to surge ahead of the rest of the United Kingdom.
However, the broader lockdown comes as experts predict that the UK could be just two weeks behind the level of pandemic seen in Italy.
18 deaths from the virus were recorded at London hospitals in the past 24 hours alone, with Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow declaring a critical incident
A senior director at one London acute trust told the Health Services Journal that the scale of the crisis in London was escalating faster than anticipated.
"Given we're in the low foothills of this virus, this is f***ing petrifying," the individual said.
The latest move could be followed by tougher action if the crisis escalates, UK government sources have told Business Insider.
However, a spokesperson for Johnson on Thursday denied some of the previously reported details about plans for a London-specific lockdown.
"There are no plans to close down the transport network in London and there is zero prospect of any restriction being placed on travelling in or out of London," the spokesperson said.
They also dismissed reports that there would be limits on the number of people allowed out of their homes at any time as "not true" and said there were "no plans" to use the army to maintain public order.
The UK government promises to pay the wages of affected workers
In the same press conference, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a series of radical measures to protect businesses and their employees.
Sunak said that the government would use grants to pay 80% of the salaries of Brits still on the payroll but forced out of work by coronavirus, in order to prevent them losing their jobs. This would be capped at £2,5000 a month.
He also announced that VAT would be deferred for the whole of the next quarter, meaning businesses will not have to pay the tax until June at the earliest.
The UK government has also injected more money into the welfare state by increasing both Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit by £1,000 a year. Sunak said this would help 4 million households nationwide.
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