BORIS Johnson plunged the UK into coronavirus lockdown tonight - ordering the closure of all shops selling non-essential goods as well as playgrounds and churches.

Gatherings of more than two people will be banned in the most dramatic curbs ever seen in Britain in peacetime, as the government goes all out to stop the spread of the killer disease.

In a grim address to the nation from Downing Street, Mr Johnson said weddings, baptisms and other social events must be cancelled to stop the NHS collapsing under the strain - although funerals can go ahead.


The UK death toll has today reached 335.

If people do not follow the rules police will have the powers to enforce them, including through fines and dispersing gatherings.

Other premises including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship must also close immediately.

Parks will remain open for exercise but gatherings will be dispersed.

Mr Johnson said his message to the public was simple: "You must stay at home".  

"Though huge numbers are complying – and I thank you all - the time has now come for us all to do more," Mr Johnson said.

"From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction - you must stay at home.

"Because the critical thing we must do is stop the disease spreading between households." 

The government's Cobra emergency committee met at 5pm and signed off the extraordinary new restrictions - similar to those which have already been imposed across the rest of Europe.

The coronavirus threat was thrown into sharp relief earlier as the number of UK fatalities went up by 54 in a single day - the second biggest rise yet, and the number of cases went up by 967, to 6,650.

Stressing that "no Prime Minister wants to enact measures like this", Mr Johnson said: "Without a huge national effort to halt the growth of this virus, there will come a moment when no health service in the world could possibly cope; because there won’t be enough ventilators, enough intensive care beds, enough doctors and nurses.

"And as we have seen elsewhere, in other countries that also have fantastic health care systems, that is the moment of real danger.

"To put it simply, if too many people become seriously unwell at one time, the NHS will be unable to handle it - meaning more people are likely to die, not just from Coronavirus but from other illnesses as well."

A backlash has been mounting against Mr Johnson's "relaxed" style, with warnings of a "full-scale mutiny" among Cabinet if the lockdown was not extended, and Labour claiming his "mixed messages will cost lives". 

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