UK shuts downs with workers paid 80% wages
Pubs, restaurants and leisure centres across the whole of Britain have been told to shut "as soon as possible" amid the spiralling coronavirus crisis.
The government quickly announced a package to pay up to 80 per cent of wages for people who are kept on the books.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson made the unprecedented announcement on Friday night (UK time), ordering all venues to shut their doors as the government tries to battle the outbreak.
Cinemas, gyms, leisure centres and cafes will also close across Britain, in a desperate bid to save British lives as the death toll rose to 177 in the UK.
The UK so far has 3983 confirmed cases of coronavirus, after 66,976 people were tested.
The extraordinary measure comes as a London hospital declared a "critical incident" over ICU bed shortages.
Restaurants will still be allowed to do takeaways, but supermarkets are unlikely to be affected at this stage.
It is unclear at this stage if outdoor leisure centres such as tennis courts and five-a-side pitches will be included.
Speaking on Friday night, the prime minister said: "Bit by bit, day by day, by your actions, your restraint and your sacrifice, we are putting this country in a better and stronger position, where we will be able to save literally thousands of lives, of people of all ages, people who don't deserve to die now.
"We are going to defeat this disease with a huge national effort to slow the spread by reducing social contact.
"We are telling cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants to close tonight as soon as they reasonably can and not to open tomorrow.
"To be clear they can continue to provide takeout services.
"We are also telling nightclubs, theatres, cinemas and gyms to close on the same timescale.
"These are places where people come together and indeed the whole purpose is to bring people together but today for now we need to keep people apart."
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Mr Johnson explained this would then be reviewed each month to see if it was safe for the venues to reopen.
He also pleaded with the public not to go out tonight, and to think of others.
He said: "Some people may of course be tempted to go out tonight and I say to you please don't.
"You may think that you are invincible but there is no guarantee that you will get mild symptoms and you can still be a carrier of the disease and pass it on to others."
There were 48,600 pubs and bars by end of last year and the total number of licensed premises (including restaurants, hotel bars, bistros, licensed cafes,) was 116,200.
At the historic press conference, Chancellor Rishi Sunak also unveiled tax cuts and wage boosts in a bid to relieve income lost due to coronavirus.
Mr Sunak revealed a package of to pay wages of up to 80 per cent for people who are not working but kept on payroll.
He said: "I have a responsibility to make sure that we protect, as far as possible, people's jobs and incomes.
"Today I can announce that in the first time of our history, the government is going to step in and help pay people's wages.
"When this is over - and it will be over - we want to look back on this moment and remember the small acts of kindness done by us and to us.
"We want to remember how we thought first of others and acted with decency … it's on all of us".
On Thursday, ministers revealed emergency legislation which would give them the powers to shut down any establishments which could be considered to host "gatherings" - from clubs and pubs to restaurants and bars.
It will allow ministers to close anywhere which could reasonably be argued was spreading coronavirus.
The bill will let the government restrict or prohibit events and gatherings during the pandemic in any place, vehicle, train, vessel or aircraft, any movable structure and any offshore installation and, where necessary, to close premises.
The pub ban comes amid growing concerns that Brits are refusing to social distance, and continuing to pile into pubs and clubs after work.
Pictures have shown boozed-up Brits spilling out of clubs and bars as they continue to ignore government advice.
The government earlier insisted that London would not be going on lockdown, and there were no plans to stop people leaving their homes.
They also stressed that Brits will also not be confined to their homes as the UK death toll hit 177.
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, had earlier pleaded with the public to follow government advice, insisting it was the only way to get it dealt with in 12 weeks.
He explained: "If people follow the advice, we can get through this quicker.
"Even if you don't think you are personally at risk because you are younger, which by the way isn't true, this affects everybody, if you don't follow the advice we are going to have to keep these measures in place for longer.
"For everyone's sake I think everyone needs to pull together and listen to the experts."
Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, had earlier told Londoners to "stop travelling and avoid social interaction".
IMPORTANT: To all Londoners: pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants, theatres, cinemas and gyms will be closed from tonight.— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) March 20, 2020
Do not go to work or use public transport, unless you do a critical job.
If you ignore this advice, people could die. #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/ZJReH34hBh
The news is a blow to Wetherspoons owner Tim Martin, who had insisted his pubs would be "open for the duration".
Despite the pandemic, he said: "I think that once you shut them down it's very difficult.
"Supermarkets are very, very crowded. Pubs are much less crowded. There's hardly been any transmission of the virus within pubs and I think it's over the top to shut them.
"That's a commercial view but also a common sense view."
Piers Morgan hit back at his comments, labelling them "insane stupidity".
This article originally appeared in The Sun and is republished here with permission.
Originally published as UK shutdown: Workers paid 80% wages