Prime Minister Boris Johnson is today writing to all UK households warning them that the coronavirus crisis is likely to get worse before it gets better.
This letter comes after the news that there are now over 19,000 confirmed cases in the UK, with the numbers killed by the virus surpassing 1,000 over the weekend. The virus has even afflicted the heart of the UK Government in the last few days, with the Prime Minister and Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, testing positive after experiencing ‘mild symptoms’ of the virus on Friday.
Mr Johnson will be sending letters to 30 million households at an anticipated cost of £5.8m. In this letter, he will emphasise that: ‘We [the Government]will not hesitate to go further if that is what the scientific and medical advice tells us we must do’, and will include guidance on hand-washing, an explanation of coronavirus symptoms, the government rules on leaving the house, and key advice on shielding vulnerable people.
— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) March 28, 2020
This has led many to believe that the UK could be heading for a European-style lockdown as implemented by Italy, France and Spain. This would require members of the public to have official Government approved documentation to hand for them to legally leave their houses. However, the prospect of introducing these measures are not specifically detailed in this letter. As it currently stands, those in England and Wales ignoring restrictions could be hit with a £60 fine for their first offence and another £120 for a second, with fines in England set to rise to a maximum of £960 for repeat offences. In Northern Ireland legislation was passed on Saturday that will see fines of up to £5,000 introduced to enforce guidelines on people staying at home and businesses staying closed. The Prime Minister justified these potential measures stating, ‘When you have a shorter period of time, as I understand other countries have done, as soon as you lift the measures the virus comes back again because you haven’t stopped it transmitting amongst lots of people.’
Experts have said they expect the number of coronavirus cases and deaths to continue to rise for the next two to three weeks before the effects of social distancing measures and restrictions on everyday life begin to have a tangible impact. Responding to reports that current measures could be in place until June, Scotland’s chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood stated: ‘The modelling that’s been done, and that I have seen, has always said that we need at least 13 weeks of some sort of measures in order to really get this virus away from spreading amongst people’.