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UK heads for stricter lockdown as pubs, gyms told to shut down

Press Trust of India  |  London 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told pubs, bars, restaurants, gyms and other social venues to shut down from Friday night and stay closed as part of stricter lockdown measures to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed 177 lives in the UK.

Addressing his daily briefing from 10 Downing Street in London, the UK PM said the new rules would be enforced strictly and the situation would be reviewed on a month by month basis.

"We are collectively telling cafes, pubs, bars, restaurants to close tonight as soon as they reasonably can, and not to open tomorrow. Though to be clear, they can continue to provide take-out services," Johnson said.

"We're also telling nightclubs, theatres, cinemas, gyms and leisure centres to close on the same timescale. Now, these are places where people come together, and indeed the whole purpose of these businesses is to bring people together. But the sad things is that today for now, at least physically, we need to keep people apart," he said.

Johnson said that following his announcement, some people may be tempted to go out on the town on Friday night for one last time but urged them not to do so.

"You may think you are invincible, but there is no guarantee you will get mild symptoms, and you can still be a carrier of the disease and pass it on to others. So that's why, as far as possible, we want you to stay at home, that's how we can protect our NHS (National Health Service) and save lives," he said.

The announcement will come as a massive blow to businesses, already struggling with lower footfalls.

Alongside the shutdown announcement, Johnson was joined by his Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, who unveiled a massive wage boost for people who find themselves facing hardship.

The UK's Indian-origin finance minister announced that the government would cover 80 per cent of wages for the country's struggling workers.

"We are going to help workers of all kinds to get through this crisis. Supporting you directly in a way that government has never been done before, in addition to the package we have already set out for business," Johnson said.

"And of course these measures are intended to be temporary and of course I am confident that, in time, the UK economy is going to bounce back," he added.

He admitted that the new stringent social distancing measures were tough on the "freedom-loving instincts of the British people" but stressed that the country would collectively beat the virus.

"And to ram that point home: the more effectively we follow the advice that we are given, the faster this country will stage both a medical and an economic recovery in full," he said.

The UK has already been under semi-lockdown measures but there were fears that many people were not taking the advice seriously enough, resulting in the forced closure of establishments as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases mounted to 3,269.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, March 21 2020. 00:22 IST