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JUST IN: UK orders lockdown over COVID-19

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The UK has banned people from leaving their homes apart from for a few “very limited” reasons, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday, as he imposed the most stringent restrictions seen in Britain since the end of World War II.

Police will break up public gatherings and fine people flouting rules, Johnson said in a remarkable televised statement on Monday evening, dramatically ramping up the country’s response to the growing coronavirus pandemic.

Shops, gyms, and places of worship will all close, and social events including weddings — but not funerals — will be postponed.

“From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction — you must stay at home,” Johnson said. “Because the critical thing we must do is stop the disease spreading between households.”

“People will only be allowed to leave their home for the following very limited purposes,” he added, listing four reasons for which citizens can go outside; shopping for basic necessities, doing one form of exercise a day, providing medical services, or going to work if it is absolutely vital.

“If you don’t follow the rules, the police will have the power to enforce them” by breaking up public gatherings and issuing fines, he added.

The restrictions essentially send the UK into lockdown, though they do not go as far some European countries — notably Italy and Spain — in terms of enforcement. Johnson said the measures will be reviewed after three weeks, and people will not require paperwork to go outside.

“No Prime Minister wants to enact measures like this. I know the damage that this disruption is doing and will do to people’s lives, to their businesses and to their jobs.”

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