LONDON (Reuters) – Coronavirus deaths in the UK rose on Tuesday, the first day of a national ban, while the government called for 250,000 health volunteers and announced that a provisional hospital would open in London next week.
In a television broadcast on Monday night, which was seen by more than 27 million people, Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered people to stay at home and urged almost all businesses to close and ban social gatherings, including weddings and baptisms.
However, public transport in London was busy during rush hour in the morning and the streets were far from deserted as the government gave advice to workers.
The number of coronavirus deaths in the UK has risen by 87 to a total of 422 – the largest daily increase since the onset of the crisis.
In the meantime, the economic devastation was underlined by a survey indicating that the economy was shrinking at a record pace, faster than during the 2008/09 financial crisis.
The unprecedented peace restrictions announced by Johnson, which will last for at least three weeks, are designed to prevent the state national health service (NHS), which at best suffers from a shortage of staff, from being overwhelmed.
“These measures are not advice, they are rules and are enforced by the police,” Health Minister Matt Hancock told Parliament.
At a press conference later, Hancock announced plans to open a temporary hospital next week at the Excel Center, a huge venue in East London that is normally used for trade shows and similar events.
“With the help of the military and NHS clinicians, we will ensure that we have the capacity to give everyone the support they need,” he said.
The UK traffic police said 500 officers will be deployed at train stations across the country to remind the public of the government’s advice to travel only when necessary.
Hancock called on 250,000 volunteers to help the NHS with tasks such as delivering medication from pharmacies, driving patients to and from hospital appointments, and calling home isolators to review them.
“If you are good and able to do so safely, I urge you to register today to help the most vulnerable in our communities as NHS volunteers,” said Hancock.
He also said the government had bought 3.5 million coronavirus antibody tests so that people who suspected they had the virus could find out for sure.
Despite the message that people should stay at home, some streets were still busy and utility workers and others were still mixed closely.
Social media images showed that the capital’s subways were filled with passengers closer than the recommended distance of 2 meters, and the government said the “reasonable” construction work should continue.
“The government urgently needs to give clearer instructions about who should and shouldn’t work,” said Rebecca Long-Bailey, leader of the Labor Party of the opposition Labor Party. “Nobody should be asked to work if they have no essential function in this crisis.”
Under the restrictions of the movement, people should only leave their homes for very limited reasons, e.g. For example, if they go to supermarkets once a day to get essential goods or do sports.
The police, who will be able to fine £ 30 ($ 35), can now break up gatherings of more than two people.
A quick YouGov survey found that 93 percent of Britons supported the measures, but divided on whether fines would be a sufficient deterrent.
Supermarkets, where panic buying has exposed shelves in the past few days, said they simultaneously limit the number of shoppers in stores, set up outdoor barriers, and install screens at checkouts to protect staff.
Last week the government announced billions of pounds in aid to businesses saying it would help pay workers’ wages and provided grants to cover 80% of an employee’s salary if they continued to be employed.
Critics said, however, that there was no support for the self-employed who had a total of around 5 million employees in the UK versus around 28 million employees, which meant that they either had to continue working or were at risk of losing any income.
Finance minister Rishi Sunak told parliament that the government is working on measures to support the self-employed, but said it should be practical and fair.
Additional reporting by Alistair Smout, Sarah Young, Paul Sandle, James Davey, David Milliken and William Schomberg; Letter from Estelle Shirbon; Edited by Stephen Addison