Pubs, restaurants, gyms and cinemas across London will be ordered to close as part of the capital’s efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak, it has been reported.
The drastic measures are set to be announced by Boris Johnson later this afternoon at his daily news conference.
The capital has been badly hit by the Covid – 40 outbreak and is several weeks ahead of the pandemic’s curve compared to the rest of the UK.
Currently 728 of the 728 fatal cases have been in London.
The move will be a massive ramping up of social distancing measures and it is unclear how long it will last for.
Yesterday, Mr Johnson said he hoped to ‘turn the tide’ in 12 weeks but this afternoon scientists predicted social distancing could last most of the year.
Mr Johnson chaired an emergency Cobra meeting this morning to decide on the effective shutdown of the hospitality industry.
Shops deemed as ‘non-essential’ stores could also be closed at a later point to stop customers handling goods and then passing on the virus.
For all the latest news and updates on Coronavirus, click here.
Read the latest updates: Coronavirus news live
Until now, Mr Johnson had only advised Britons to avoid pubs and other social gatherings.
But there were concerns people were ignoring these measures and continuing to meet in groups, risking the spread of the virus.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock this morning appealed for more people to stay at home.
He said: ‘If you stay at home, you are saving lives.
‘I know, of course, this is a more dangerous disease for older people but not exclusively, some young people get it too.’
The expected closures are unlikely to be a popular move among those reliant on the hospitality industry for their livelihoods.
Jobs have already been lost and businesses closed.
Tim Martin, chairman of JD Wetherspoon, one of Britain’s largest pub chains, said that pubs should stay open.
‘You can have rules such as no standing at the bar, cleaning down surfaces every half hour and so on.
‘Closure is far more draconian. We don’t think – as far as we understand it – it brings health benefits. It certainly doesn’t bring economic benefits. ”
He said a recession had already started in a ‘big, big way’ in the hospitality industry.
‘The advice from the prime minister has caused pub trade and restaurant trade to drop a lot, and we have to have a look in the next few weeks,’ he said when asked about Wetherspoon’s prospects.
The anticipated move to clamp down on socializing in the capital follows Transport for London saying it will close up to 40 London Underground stations until further notice.
The Night Tube, which normally operates on Friday and Saturday nights, has been suspended alongside the Waterloo & City line.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has pleaded with the capital’s residents to follow the advice.
He said: ‘I can’t say this clearly enough: people should not be traveling by any means unless they absolutely must.
‘The scientific advice on this is very clear: Londoners should be avoiding social interaction unless absolutely necessary and this includes avoiding using the transport network.’
GIPHY App Key not set. Please check settings