The UK government on Monday warned that tougher lockdown measures, including curfews akin to those in place in other European countries such as France and Italy, would have to be enforced to limit the spread of the coronavirus if "selfish people continued to put lives in danger by not following social distancing rules.
The warning comes as Parliament is set to speed through emergency legislation that would grant powers aimed at tackling the rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic, with 5,683 confirmed cases and 281 deaths in the UK.
The Coronavirus Bill will create powers for the police to disperse people or keep them indoors. The proposals, to be time-limited for two years, could also include complete airport shutdowns, fast-tracking funeral arrangements, and allowing more court hearings to take place by phone or video.
"If people go within two metres of others who they don't live with then they're helping to spread the virus and the consequences of that costs lives and it means that, for everyone, this will go on for longer It's very selfish," said UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock, in reference to images of swathes of people in parks and other open spaces over the weekend.
Asked if the Cabinet would be considering curfews and a firmer lockdown at its regular meeting on Monday, he added: "Nothing is off the table. Of course we are looking at what other European countries are doing."
With Britain's outbreak believed to be around two weeks behind Italy's the worst-hit country British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is coming under pressure to use the police to enforce official advice urging people to stay at home and avoid social contact.
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, Johnson said on Sunday evening during his daily Downing Street briefing.
You have to stay two metres apart; you have to follow the social distancing advice 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, he said, reminding people that all schools will be shut from Monday except for a minority of children of key workers.
Asked to elaborate on what the tougher measures could look like, he said that curfews and prohibitions on movement have not been ruled out.
Britain remains in near-lockdown, with pubs, bars, cinemas and other social venues shut down since Friday and public transport is being curtailed to essential services as people are told to work from home.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: Unless people stay at home, unless people stop using public transport unless it's essential, unless people stop interacting with each other, more people will die.
The UK government said it is setting up "hubs" around the country to arrange deliveries of groceries and medicines to the nearly 1.5-million most at-risk people, who have been sent letters to stay at home for 12 weeks. Those in the category include people with specific cancers, severe respiratory conditions and people who have received organ transplants.
Councils, pharmacists and members of the UK's Armed Forces will help with distributing essentials to this vulnerable group, with opportunities for members of the public to volunteer.
The number of worldwide cases of Covid-19 have now crossed 300,000, with more than 13,000 deaths around the world.
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