Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street on his way to Buckingham Palace after the general election in London, Britain, December 13, 2019.
Thomas Mukoya | Reuters
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the country on Monday to avoid all non-essential contact, after coming under fire for not doing more to stem the spread of the coronavirus in the country.
“Now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel,” Johnson said at a press conference. “You should avoid pubs, clubs, theaters and other such social venues.”
He added that people should start working from home “where they possibly can.”
The comments come after swathes of Europe and the U.S. have already shut down much of public life to prevent the virus spreading further. Johnson and his government had been criticized in the U.K. for not taking more drastic measures earlier.
The U.K. has at least 1,551 cases of COVID-19, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, and 36 people in the country have died of the disease to date. The country’s total number of cases are well below those of other European countries, such as Italy and Spain, but they have shot up over recent days.
Johnson warned on Monday that that the spread of the virus in the U.K. was accelerating towards “fast growth phase” and that “without drastic action,” cases could double every five or six days. Anyone with symptoms of the coronavirus has been told to self-isolate their whole household for 14 days.
The virus is nearing its peak in London faster than elsewhere, Johnson warned.
Across Europe, many countries have brought in restrictions on the public, closing schools and universities, museums, bars and restaurants and banning mass gatherings and even closing borders.
In the worst hit countries of Italy and Spain, only grocery stores and pharmacies remain open as the southern European countries tackle their worst public health emergency in recent years.
While Spain has imposed a 15-day nationwide lockdown, banning its 46 million citizens from all-non essential movement, the euro zone’s largest economies France and Germany have closed large parts of their economies and fortified borders.
Meanwhile, Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission president, proposed banning most foreign visitors into Europe for 30 days.
In the U.S. too, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut became the latest states to restrict restaurants and bars, banning dining in effective Monday. Las Vegas casinos are also shuttering.
Speaking on Monday, Johnson said there was “widespread agreement” among the G-7 group of advanced economies that the coronavirus outbreak was a “foremost priority.”
“We are going to need to make sure everybody has access to liquidity and that if we do things jointly, then I think that the global markets will understand that we’re all operating in the same sort of fiscal framework and I think we’ll be much more successful that way,” he said.
— Holly Ellyatt contributed to this report