British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the new restrictions will last for at least three weeks. File Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | License Photo
March 23 (UPI) -- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday issued a sweeping stay-at-home order for the entire country, banning people from leaving their homes except in "very limited" instances during the coronavirus pandemic.
The restrictions are in place for at least three weeks. The prime minister took the extraordinary action -- with support from the opposition -- after the death toll reached 336 Monday. Johns Hopkins University said there have been 6,724 cases of COVID-19 in the country.
"From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction -- you must stay at home," Johnson said in a televised address. "Because the critical thing we must do is stop the disease spreading between households."
Under the new restrictions, Britons will be allowed to leave home only to shop for necessities, attend to medical needs, provide help for a vulnerable person, travel to and from essential work and one period of exercise each day.
"That's all -- these are the only reasons you should leave your home. You should not be meeting friends. If your friends ask you to meet, you should say 'No.' You should not be meeting family members who do not live in your home," Johnson said.
"If you don't follow the rules, the police will have the power to enforce them," he said, saying police will break up gatherings and possibly levy fines.
Johnson said the new restrictions will be "under constant review," and could be extended beyond the initial three-week period.
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, backed Johnson's order.
"The prime minister is right to call for people to stay at home, protect our [National Health Service] and save lives. This is the right response for the coronavirus pandemic, and one we have been calling for," he said.
"There now needs to be clear guidance to employers and workers about which workplaces should close -- and the government must close the loopholes to give security to all workers, including the self-employed, as well as renters and mortgage holders."