Coronavirus: UK could be set for lockdown as London infections rise

The government to announce whether to enforce stricter measures seen in the rest of Europe

LONDON, ENGLAND  - MARCH 22: People are seen walking in Greenwich park on March 22, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged that people don't visit their parents this Mothering Sunday to curb the spread of COVID-19, which has killed 233 people in the UK.  (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)
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Britain could be on lockdown as early as Monday evening after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned draconian measures could be taken to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The government closed venues such as restaurants and bars on Friday evening but evidence suggested people were congregating outside instead.

Images on social media showed packed public parks, beaches and markets, leaving some organisations and local authorities to suspend access to outside spaces.

The London district of Hammersmith and Fulham announced it was closing all the parks in its borough on Sunday, while Welsh ministers are considering using legal powers to force people to stay in after huge crowds visited Snowdonia National Park.

UK media reported on Monday that the government is considering closing all non-essential shops and fining people who refuse to follow the current advice.

Mr Johnson warned on Sunday evening that the UK could be set for stricter social distancing measures, which have been enforced in other European countries.

“We will think about this very actively in the next 24 hours. If people can’t make use of parks and playgrounds responsibly, in a way that observes the two-metre rule, then of course we’re going to have to look at further measures,” he said.

Germany has introduced a ban on public gatherings of more than two people and in Spain and the Italian region of Lombardy, the lockdown has extended to banning people from taking physical exercise outside.

Mr Johnson said the UK was looking at steps adopted by its European neighbours.

“We need to think about the kinds of measures that we’ve seen elsewhere, other countries that have been forced to bring in restrictions on people’s movements altogether,” he said.

Health minister Matt Hancock said it was “very selfish” of people to ignore government advice, adding that the government was meeting on Monday to discuss whether firmer measures needed to be adopted.

“Nothing is off the table,” he told BBC radio. “Of course, we are looking at what other European countries are doing.”

London’s mayor Sadiq Khan told Londoners that “people will die” if social distancing rules are not adhered to.

The capital has almost 40 per cent of the 5,683 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK. The total death toll stands at 281.

Mr Khan said the city was “weeks ahead” of the rest of the country when it came to the spread of the virus.

Alongside closing restaurants, the government have shut schools, and told people to work from home if they can and avoid unnecessary travel.

But London’s transport system remains open to enable essential workers, such as those in health care, to get around.

McDonald’s said it would close all 1,270 of its UK branches by the end of Monday, including its takeaway and Drive Thru services to protect its staff.

Nando’s followed suit soon after, saying its 400 outlets would be closed “until further notice”.

While restaurants have been ordered to close, takeaway-only venues have been exempted. Many local cafes are offering food for collection and delivery.