Boris Johnson has placed London and the rest of the UK into lockdown in an attempt to stop coronavirus spreading in the capital.

The Prime Minister ordered people only to leave their homes under a list of “very limited purposes”, banned public gatherings of more than two people and ordered the closure of non-essential shops.

What are the rules?

Starting from 8.30pm on Monday March 23, Britons will now only be able to leave their homes for four reasons.

  • Shop for essentials, as infrequently as possible
  • Exercise outdoors once per day, alone or with household members
  • Receive medical treatment or provide care
  • Travel to and from work, if it’s impossible to work from home

All gatherings of more than two people will banned except for members of your own family or household.

Police will have the power to issue on-the-spot fines of £30 to people meeting without good reason.

Pubs, restaurants, cinemas and cafes have already been closed down in an attempt to prevent people mixing with others and making non-essential journeys.

London is 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, restaurants and non-essential shops.

Cinemas, gyms, theatres, libraries and leisure centres will be closed too, including outdoor gyms. Some outside spaces will be shut, such as kiosks and playparks.

Also closed are places of worship, except for funerals.

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. However, the Government was forced to ramp up its measures after Britons were not adhering to the need to keep their distance.

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.

How will the rules be enforced?

Police officers are to “persuade, cajole, negotiate and advise” the public to follow lockdown restrictions, as police leaders said they did not want to be forced to take more draconian measures.

From Thursday, new laws will give police the power to fine people caught outside their homes in groups of more than two. Guidance issued before the legislation takes effect is expected to urge officers to “persuade, cajole, negotiate and advise” people to disperse before they issue the £30 penalty notices.

The emergency legislation allows for unlimited fines to be imposed by magistrates’ courts if people break the rules on public gatherings, The Telegraph understands.

Metropolitan police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said that once the new legislation is in place: “My view is that my officers will just carry on talking to people and advising people.

“The vast majority of people want to comply with the law, the vast majority of people want to keep their society safe.”

What has the Government said?

In his address to the nation on Monday night, Boris Johnson said: “The coronavirus is the biggest threat this country has faced for decades – and this country is not alone. All over the world we are seeing the devastating impact of this invisible killer.”

Mr Johnson says unless people follow social distancing measures, “there will come a moment when no health service in the world could possibly cope; because there won’t be enough ventilators, enough intensive care beds, enough doctors and nurses.”

“I know the damage that this disruption is doing and will do to people’s lives, to their businesses and to their jobs.” 

“And that’s why we have produced a huge and unprecedented programme of support both for workers and for business.”

“And I can assure you that we will keep these restrictions under constant review. We will look again in three weeks, and relax them if the evidence shows we are able to. “

“Each and every one of us is now obliged to join together. To halt the spread of this disease. To protect our NHS and to save many many thousands of lives.

“And I know that as they have in the past so many times. The people of this country will rise to that challenge. And we will come through it stronger than ever. We will beat the coronavirus and we will beat it together.”

You can read the Prime Minister’s address in full here.

Are the shops open?

Some shops remain open. But non-essential shops are closed. Food shops, pharmacies, corner shops, hardware stores, petrol stations, pet shops, post offices, banks, newsagents and shops inside hospitals will stay open.

The Government has ordered people only to shop for food and essentials.

Will there be transport?


Covent Garden was one of 40 stations closed by TfL on Thursday morning


Credit: NEIL HALL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Yes, the London Undergound is still running, but with a restricted service. Forty 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?

The Government has ordered Britons not to leave the house unless you absolutely must. Members of the public practising social distancing can leave the house to shop for food and other essentials, and to exercise once a day, providing they keep a safe distance from others (around 2m). The Government has also told 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?

Yes. Boris Johnson announced on March 23 that the police will have power to issue on-the-spot fines of £30 to people meeting without good reason.

In addition, the Coronavirus Bill due that went before the Commons on Monday includes 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.

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