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UK's Covid-19 lockdown in question as trains remain packed

Press Trust of India  |  London 

The UK's strict three-week lockdown announced by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to control the spread of the deadly coronavirus remains in question with the country's underground trains seen packed during the rush hour on Tuesday as people continue using the limited services in operation.

Johnson on Monday enforced the strictest curbs on movement of people for at least three weeks as the death toll from Covid-19 in the country rose to 335.

In a televised address to the nation, Johnson issued the central message of: you must stay home and gave police powers to enforce the order.

However, there are concerns around the clarity of the message and police forces around the country said they had been inundated with calls asking what was still allowed.

Transport Secretary Gant Shapps in a tweet on Monday advised people to stay at home if possible.

"Concerning to see images of packed trains this a.m. The advice is clear: STAY HOME if possible. That is the way to SAVE LIVES," he said.

"We are working with train operators to introduce a small number of trains for KEY WORKERS to have space to be safe," he added.

The government has said that those in construction can go to work on a site as long as they adhere to the social distancing advice of not being within 2-metres of someone who is not in your household.

However, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who controls some of the UK capital's biggest construction projects as the head of Transport for London, said he wanted to shut construction sites as part of the lockdown.

I've expressed my concerns to the Prime Minister directly. In my view, the only construction workers that should be working are those that we need for safety. I think that this is a time to understand the scale of the challenge we are facing, he said.

The mobile networks in the country have been deployed to send out the government's text messages to all customers with details of the new shutdown measures in an effort for greater clarity on the lockdown.

Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said enforcing the new restrictions would be "a real, real challenge", as there was already "large amounts of sickness" among officers across London.

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said in a tweet that the next few weeks would be "testing" for police but she was working to ensure they are fully resourced.

I will do everything I can to ensure that they have the resources they need to keep themselves and the public safe. Their selflessness, compassion and commitment inspires us all every single day, the Indian-origin minister said.

Meanwhile, emergency legislation introducing new tough measures to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and giving the police additional powers will go before the House of Lords on Tuesday after passing the House of Commons on Monday.

Speaking from Downing Street on Monday, Johnson said that while no prime minister wants to make demands of limiting movements but the situation is such that a clamp down on people's movement and crackdown on any gatherings of more than two people was inevitable.

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, he said.

The UK prime minister announced the immediate closure of shops selling non-essential goods and said people will only be allowed to leave their home to shop for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible ; one form of exercise a day - for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household; any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person; and travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home.

We will beat the coronavirus and we will beat it together. And therefore I urge you at this moment of national emergency to stay at home, protect our NHS [National Health Service] and save lives, he added.

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

First Published: Tue, March 24 2020. 16:36 IST