by Tony Diver, The Telegraph, March 23, 2020
Boris Johnson has placed London and the rest of the UK into lockdown in an attempt to stop coronavirus spreading in the capital.
Pubs, restaurants, cinemas and cafes have all been closed down in an attempt to prevent people mixing with others and making non-essential journeys.
As of Sunday morning, there were 1965 cases of the virus confirmed in London, making it the area of the UK worst hit by the coronavirus epidemic. There are now as many cases recorded in Westminster as the whole of Northern Ireland.
What does it mean?
The lockdown is a way of enforcing the Government’s suppression strategy for coronavirus by law, by forcibly shutting down businesses, schools, public transport and requiring people to stay inside.
Boris Johnson has announced the closure of pubs, bars and restaurants.
Cinemas, gyms, theatres and leisure centres will be closed too.
The Prime Minister had previously warned that stringent methods of enforcement would be necessary if the public did not follow the Government’s advice on social distancing, by not going to pubs, bars and restaurants to slow the spread of the virus.
The Government has ruled out shutting off the capital entirely and preventing traffic in and out of the city. It is still possible to travel.
Emergency legislation has been tabled in Parliament to give the Government the power to restrict individuals and businesses more than it usually could.
What has the Government said?
At his most recent press conference on Friday afternoon, Boris Johnson said a "huge national effort" was necessary to slow the virus.
"We are strengthening the measures announced on Monday," he said.
"We need now to push down further on that curve of transmission between us."
"We are collectively telling cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants to close tonight as soon as they reasonably can, and not to open tomorrow.
"We are also telling nightclubs, theatres, cinemas, gyms and leisure centres to close on the same timescale."
"I want to stress that we will review the situation each month to see if we can relax these measures."
Mr Johnson asked the public not to go out on Friday night, thinking they are "invincible".
Are the shops open?
Yes, shops remain open.
The Government has advised people not to leave the house without good reason, but supermarkets, pharmacies, clothing shops and other businesses are allowed to operate.
A Whitehall source told The Telegraph: “It doesn’t seem logical to close the pubs and cafes and restaurants but keep clothing stores open when few people are actually going in there and making purchases.”
It is possible that non-essential shops will be closed in future, but they have not been part of the Government's strategy yet.
Is the Tube running?
Yes, the London Underground is still running, but with a restricted service. 40 underground stations that do not sit on intersections of tube lines have already been closed, reducing the service offered, and the Waterloo and City line, primarily used by commuters, has been closed.
The Night Tube, which runs an all-night service on Fridays and Saturdays, has been suspended.
Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, said the transport network is being kept open primarily for key workers to travel to work.
“London will get through these extraordinarily challenging times and ensuring the capital’s critical workers can move around the city will be crucial,” he said.
"Frontline staff across our health and care service – as well as those ensuring Londoners stay safe and can access food and other essentials – should be commended for their hard work.”
Are buses running in London?
Yes, buses are running, but with a reduced service. Sadiq Khan said the bus network would now offer a similar service to a regular Saturday.
The night bus network will continue to provide workers with a reliable night option on Friday and Saturday nights, while the Underground is no longer running, and throughout the week.
TfL has asked that, in line with Government guidance, people do not travel by any means unless their journey is absolutely necessary.
Can I leave the house?
Government advice suggests you do not leave the house unless you absolutely must. Members of the public practicing social distancing can leave the house to shop for food and other essentials, and to exercise, providing they keep a safe distance from others (around 2m). The Government has also requested that people work from home if possible.
People who are self-isolating because they have exhibited symptoms of coronavirus are not to leave the house, even to shop, but can use their gardens or exercise outdoors at a safe distance.
Can I travel out of London during lockdown?
Yes. There has been no restriction of travel in and out of the capital, and the Government has explicitly ruled out introducing roadblocks or other travel bans.
However, the Government’s guidance is that people do not make unnecessary trips, which includes road and rail journeys in and out of the capital.
Can I be fined for not following the government guidelines?
No, there is currently no penalty for breaching social distancing or self-isolation guidelines. However, the Coronavirus Bill due to be introduced in the Commons on Monday does include scope for the Government to detain people it suspects of being carriers of the disease, or fine people who refused to be tested £1,000.
Will the Army be called in to help?
It seems likely the British Army will be called in to help. Twenty thousand troops are on standby to help emergency services to respond to coronavirus, in the same way as the Army often helps with flood responses.
Around 150 military personnel will also be trained to drive oxygen tankers to support the NHS if required, and reservists may be called up to assist with coronavirus response.